Ramadan Marks Time

Of Fasting and Prayer

* The holy month of Ramadan begins this weekend. Most Muslims will begin their month of fasting and prayer tonight at sundown, while some will start Saturday.

Ramadan (pronounced RAHM-uh-don) is the ninth month, and an important part, of the Islamic calendar. Muslims believe that it was during Ramadan, more than 1,400 years ago, that God began to reveal their holy book, the Koran, to the prophet Muhammad.

During the month, Muslims strive to go without worldly pleasures in an effort to deepen their faith. For example, they don't eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. In some Middle Eastern countries, lavish meals are served after sundown in homes or restaurants that stay open late.

Some mosques, too, remain open for all-night prayer. And many Muslims read the entire Koran during the month.

Ramadan is one of four Islamic months when fighting is discouraged. However, some Muslims believe they earn a special spot in paradise if they die fighting a "holy war" during Ramadan. Last year, the start of Ramadan saw increased fighting in Iraq. This year, officials in Iraq said, extra police patrols will be on duty.

A Muslim girl stands during a prayer at a mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia.