by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
NEW DELHI, June 7 (Xinhua) -- The Islamic holy month of Ramadan that sees the faithful fast during the day began Tuesday across India as the beginning of ninth month of the Islamic calendar was announced on Monday evening with the sighting of the new crescent in sky.
"The Ruyat-e-Hilal (crescent sighting) committee announced the sighting of the moon yesterday evening, after which worshipers gathered in mosques last night to offer special night prayers," an official affiliated with New Delhi's Jamia Masjid (grand mosque) told Xinhua.
The formal announcements regarding the sighting of the crescent and beginning of Ramadan were made by grand jurists in almost all the states of India. Following the announcements Muslims amassed in mosques in their neighborhoods on Monday night to offer special prayers called Tarawih - a session for Quran-readings and prayer.
Mosques in the Indian capital city of New Delhi witnessed a huge influx of worshippers. Similar reports were received from the southern state of Hyderabad and Indian-controlled Kashmir, along with other areas.
For one month, devout Muslims all over the world, abstain from eating, drinking and engaging in marital obligations from dawn until sunset. After dusk, Muslims break their fast by drinking water and sharing meals, often with family and friends.
During Ramadan, Muslims seek forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance on following a straight path and ask for help in refraining from everyday "evils."
Islamic scholars stress that Muslims must strive to maintain pure thoughts and avoid obscene scenes and discussions during the month. Muslims are expected to start observing the fasting ritual once they reach puberty, as long as they are healthy.
However, the elderly, the chronically ill and mentally-challenged are exempt from fasting, although the first two are expected to try their best to feed the poor and the needy instead. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and women on their menstrual cycle do not have to fast. Likewise, people who are traveling long distances are exempt from fasting.
It is also during Ramadan that Muslim communities engage in acts of charity. Mosques receive most of their funding during this month as Muslims are particularly generous during the month of Ramadan.
In Muslim-majority areas and localities all the eateries, including restaurants, tea-stalls and ice-cream shops, remain closed during the daytime in the month of Ramadan. However, the markets witness an unusual rush of shoppers buying fruits and dates to break their fast at dusk.
The month of Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr.