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30 Sep, 2008 08:50

Muslim fast ends with three-day celebration

Muslims in Russia are marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. During the three-day celebration believers attend mosques, give charity to the poor and gather for collective prayers.

The end of the fast is marked differently from country to country. The actual date of the event also varies, but it is widely regarded as the main holy day in the Islamic calendar.

As Muslims in different parts of the world mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan, thousands of people have gathered at Moscow's main mosque. For one month they've been fasting and only one more prayer separates them from long-awaited festivities.

“The trial of the fast is now behind us. And Muslims strengthened by faith are greeting this holiday with happiness and are striving towards kindness and godliness.”

Although today has not been declared an official holiday, many people took time off from work to gather at the mosque. Having fasted for one month, they can now celebrate by feasting with their close ones for three days.

As usual, straight after prayers, Aza Tekeeva begins greeting guests at her home. Her large family always gets together on this special day. She's cooking the traditional mutton. Aza's family members are not the only ones to taste her cooking, since Eid ul-Fitr is also a day when all Muslims give donations to the poor.

 “We've set aside 10 pieces of meat. It's the food that we are going to distribute – it's absolutely necessary. And when we do this, we ask Allah that our whole family will be healthy and will get together again next year.” explains Tekeeva.

For the next two days, Aza, just like all Muslims in Russia, will visit friends and relatives to eat, drink and celebrate. The month-long fast may have been physically hard, but she believes it has helped her strengthen both her mind and spirit.

There are around 20 million Muslims in Russia. That's why this holiday called Eid ul-Fitr – the end of the holy month of Ramadan – is widely celebrated in many Russian regions, especially in the Caucasus where it's been declared an official day off work in some cases.

It's believed that during the month of Ramadan, the prophet Mohammed was enlightened with the Q'uran. From sunrise to sunset Muslims are restricted in their eating and drinking and are required to distance themselves from worldly problems and to focus on their spirituality.

The end of the holy month of Ramadan is a time for spiritual purification, which is achieved through fasting, self-sacrifice and prayers.

Celebrated during the ninth month of Islamic calendar, the fast is observed each day from sunrise to sunset. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five Pillars of Islam.

Ramadan concludes with a three-day festival known as Eid or Eid ul-Fitr, which literally means “the feast of (fast) breaking.”