(MENAFN - Jordan Times) AMMAN - Jordanians, joining 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, observe today the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan, which brings drastic changes to daily life routine.
The start of Ramadan begins at the sighting of the new moon of the lunar month, according to Islamic tradition.
Scholars and officials gathered in the vicinity of King Hussein Mosque in Amman Tuesday evening, some using telescopes, to watch the new moon following sunset.
As there was no sighting of the new moon, scholars declared Wednesday as the 30th day of the lunar month of Shaban, making Thursday the first day of the fasting month, which like every lunar month lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the sighting of the new moon of the month that follows.
Usually working hours and consequently other aspects of life change in a manner that fits the requirements of the month, mainly the main meal that breaks the fast at sunset, the iftar.
Working hours for public agencies are customarily reduced to 9:00am to 2:00pm, instead of 8:00am to 3:00pm during the rest of the year.
Private businesses also adjust their working day during the fasting month. In general, Muslims try to be at the iftar table with the call for sunset prayers.
Restaurants are not allowed to serve seated meals during the day, while all liquor shops and nightclubs are ordered to close till the end of the month.
Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for 29 or 30 days of the holy month.
Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing, are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year, according to Islamic teachings.
If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast and observe the prayer from puberty, although many start earlier.
Those fasting are also required to avoid immoral behaviour, have self-restraint and show compassion.
Ramadan evenings are a highlight of this season.
There are the taraweeh prayers, performed traditionally at mosques.
The taraweeh is a special prayer performed after ishaa prayers in Ramadan evenings, starting on the eve of the first day of the holy month.
His Majesty King Abdullah yesterday joined worshippers in performing the ritual at the King Hussein Mosque in Amman.
Restaurants, caf÷źand hotels all cater for the occasion by setting up traditional tents in addition to live entertainment, hubbly-bubblies, card tables and array of sweets.
Qatayef, a delightful sweet reserved for the month of Ramadan, is very popular. The pancake shell is filled with walnuts, sweet white cheese or cream and then fried in oil, dipped in sugar syrup and served hot or at room temperature.
Most bakeries operate special qatayef stalls, often attracting long queues of customers, especially in the final hours before iftar.
Dates, which come in all sizes, shapes and prices, are also in demand this season. Generally, Muslims break their fasting by eating few dates and a sip of water.
At the social level, family reunions and banquets held for family members, in-laws and friends are a key feature of the holy month.
In the past few years, towns have witnessed the charity iftars, served under tents erected in public squares and on the sides of roads for the poor and passersby. These iftars are organised by big businesses and well-off individuals, in addition to those donated by Arab leaders like the late UAE president Sheikh Zayed Ben Sultan Al Nahayan.
Charity work is very active in Ramadan. Starting with the Hashemite Charity Caravans, which distribute food parcels among the poor all over the Kingdom, charity organisations' work peaks in this season.
Lailat Al Qadr
There is a special night called Laylat Al Qadr (the Night of Power), which is mentioned in the Koran as the night when the first verses of the holy book were revealed to the Prophet Mohammad. In general, Jordanians observe the night on the eve of Ramadan 27 by staying up till the early morning hours praying and reading Koran.
At the completion of the fasting month, Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid Al Fitr.
According to Islamicity.com, the occasion is "a true thanksgiving for a Muslim believer for having the opportunity to obey God by observing fasting.
Source: Jordan Times