The majority of Muslims across the globe on Monday morning ushered in the holy month of Ramadan, during which devout members of the faith fast from sunrise to sundown for thirty days. Tens of millions more in Oman, Iran, India and Pakistan will mark the beginning of the holiday Tuesday, the start of the lunar month based on moon sightings in those countries. The fasting – which includes abstaining from caffeine, nicotine and sex – is meant to draw Muslims closer to God through discipline and spirituality. Those who are exempt include children, the elderly, the ill, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, and travelers. Generally, work hours throughout the Middle East are reduced, with many countries ending their business day by 14:00. During Ramadan, observant Muslims wake up as early as 3:00 for a pre-dawn meal called suhoor, and break the daily fast with a joyous iftar meal. Upholding Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, which most notably include the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that each able Muslim must make at least once in a lifetime. According to Islamic belief, Ramadan commemorates the first revelation of the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad, whom God subsequently ordered to fast for 30 days.
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