Turkey welcomes Ramadan a day earlier than most Arab, African nations
ISTANBUL - CAIRO (AA)Muslims in Turkey have welcomed the holy month of Ramadan, while the fasting will start in most Arab and African nations on Sunday.
The first suhoor - a Ramadan meal before dawn - took place in Turkey's northeastern city of Ardahan at 2.39 a.m. on Saturday while the last one occurred in the southwestern city of Mugla at 4.02 a.m.
Fasting, held from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, is one of the Five Pillars [fundamental religious duties] of Islam. It is a time of self-examination and increased religious devotion. Ramadan will continue for 30 days.
Welcoming the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims across Istanbul also rushed to mosques to perform Tarawih prayers, an extra prayer specific to Ramadan, according to the practices of Prophet Mohammed, performed by Muslims following the obligatory night prayer known as 'Isha.
The Blue Mosque is a symbolic space for these prayers.
The first Tarawih, which are held in mosques every night of the month, began on Friday.
During Ramadan, municipalities in Istanbul will organize mass iftar meals - free meals consisting of things such as soup, stew, pudding and juice - and street festivals such as clown and shadow puppet shows for locals.
No moon sighting
Sunday has been declared the first day of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in most Arab and African nations because the new moon was not sighted on Friday.
Sighting the new crescent moon is essential for the start of any month in the Islamic lunar calendar.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain all announced that Ramadan would begin on Sunday after the new moon was not sighted.
A similar announcement was made by religious authorities in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Sudan, the Palestinian Authority, Somalia, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Eritrea and Djibouti.
Yemen, along with Lebanese Shia Muslims, will start fasting on Saturday, while Lebanese Sunnis will observe the holy month as of Sunday.
Iraqi Sunnis, for their part, will begin fasting on Sunday, while the country's Shias will wait until Saturday to sight the new moon.
In Tanzania, Regional Secretary of Tanzania Muslim Council Sheikh Abas Darweshi told Anadolu Agency that the holy month would start on Sunday because the was moon was not sighed.
National Chief Imam of Ghana Sheikh Usman Nuhu Sharubutu announced in a televised speech that the moon has been sighted by the Eastern Regional Chief Imam Yusif Andani, which means that Ramadan would start Saturday in the West African country.
Ramadan will also start Saturday in Ivory Coast.
The announcement was made late Friday by the Supreme Council of Imams (CODIS) and the Council of Sunni Imams (CODIS) though a nationwide television and radio broadcast after the sighting of the moon in the northern cities of Korogho and Bonon.
Speaking to AA, Kenya's Chief Kadhi Ahmed Muhdhar confirmed that there were no reports about moon sighting in the country and the fast would start on Sunday.
Muslims in Uganda, meanwhile, would commence the holy month on Sunday, according to a statement from the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.
The South Sudan Islamic Council also announced that Ramadan will begin on Sunday because they did not see the new moon.
Burundi's mufti Sadiki Kajandi said that the Muslim community could not sight the new moon on Friday and would start fasting on Sunday.
Ethiopian state TV quoted Sharia Court President Sheikh Mohammed Al Omar as confirming Ramadan start on Sunday.
Suzyo Zimba, head of the Islamic Council of Zambia, told AA they would sight the new moon on Saturday.
The same would happen in South Africa, according to Moulana Khaliq Allie, the Secretary General of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC).
"Three is high expectation that the moon will be sighted tomorrow Saturday Insha'Allah and the holy month of Ramadan will commence on Sunday," he told AA.
During Ramadan, Muslims must abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset.
Throughout the course of the fasting month, Muslims are urged to perform extra prayers, especially at night; recite the Quran; give to the poor; and refrain from misbehavior. It ends with the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Obama sends best wishes
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has sent his best wishes to Muslims in the U.S. and around the world on the start of Ramadan.
Obama said in a statement that the U.S. is grateful for Muslim-American organizations, individuals and businesses that work to reduce the income gap and poverty through charitable efforts and programs that provide education, skills and health care to students, workers and families.
Obama says he’s looking forward to opening the White House to Muslim Americans for a traditional iftar dinner. It’s the meal that breaks the daytime fast.