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Ramadan

852_ramadan~ A month of fasting and generosity ~

For those who don't know, Ramadan starts on Wednesday, June 17, and will end on Friday, July 17 in 2015. The holiest month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is marked from the first sighting of the new crescent moon and continues for a 30-day period. It is traditionally celebrated as a month of fasting, when one can only eat after the sun has set and before the sun rises again. All adults and children past puberty must participate unless they are ill, pregnant, menstruating, elderly, diabetic or breastfeeding.

In addition to fasting, those of the Muslim community must not take part in sinful behaviour such as drinking alcohol, swearing, smoking and sexual relations. Muslims are required to pray for all of the 30 days of Ramadan. Each day is marked reciting a chapter from the Quran. By the end of Ramadan, most Muslims would have recited the entire Quran.

Muslims fast to keep the heart from being distracted and to cleanse their soul by freeing it from impurities. Ramadan is a time to practice self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy for those less fortunate. It is a time where generosity and charity are encouraged.

Ramadan is concluded with Eid Al Fitr or "the feast of breaking fast" – an annual three-day celebration which is a public holiday in most Islamic countries. While Ramadan may be a month of fasting, it's time to eat, eat, eat as soon as the sun goes down; and big meals are traditionally served. Some of the more traditional dishes include:

• Dates, nuts and milk

• Luqaimat (small, sweet dumplings made from butter, sugar, milk and flour).

• Harees (popular dish in the Gulf, consisting of coarsely-ground wheat buried underground with chicken or meat).

• Masgouf (famous Iraqi dish of baked fish).

• Kunafa (a sweet made from spun shredded wheat; it can be filled with cream, cheese, or nuts and raisins).

• Erk Soos (extracts of the liquorice plant mixed with water).

• Jellab (a syrup made of grape molasses mixed with rose water and sugar, then poured over ice and decorated with pine nuts).

If you know someone who is celebrating Ramadan, wish them "Ramadan Kareem" which roughly translated means "Happy Ramadan." Also try not to eat or mention food in front of them as it can be considered rude. If you're invited to celebrate Ramadan with a member or a family of the Muslim community, feel honoured. Ramadan is a holiday traditionally spent with friends or family so it means they think of you as a good friend or family. You won't have to fast, but it would be polite if you didn't drink, smoke, or swear in your hosts' presence. Also be sure to wear respectful clothing which covers your shoulders and knees. Men should definitely wear long pants.

If you're a business owner with a Muslim employee, consider letting him or her leave two hours early as that is the norm in Islamic countries. Happy Ramadan.

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Saturday Oct. 17, 2015
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Friday Oct. 16, 2015
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