Muslims in Las Vegas and around the world will begin observing Ramadan this week, an Islamic holy month of fasting, community and religious contemplation.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset to learn compassion for those less fortunate and practice self-discipline, Nasser Karimian, resident scholar at the Islamic Society of Nevada, said. They also avoid tobacco and sexual intimacy during fasting hours.
“And it shows you that if you can commit to this then surely when it comes to doing sins, like looking at things you shouldn’t be looking at, doing things you shouldn’t, making jokes that you shouldn’t or just doing evil deeds, you’re much more capable of of controlling yourself,” Karimian said.
Karimian said Ramadan is also an opportunity for families and the Muslim community to grow closer. Families eat together early in the morning and break their fast together after sunset with a meal called Iftar.
“Nowadays families don’t really eat together every night,” he said, “but during Ramadan, you’ve been fasting all day and you’re hungry, so everyone has a meal together and talks about the day.”
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and is celebrated as the time when God revealed the Quran to the prophet Mohammed, thought to be some time during the last week of the month.
Muslims generally pray five times a day, but those prayers are usually very short. Karimian said that during Ramadan, the final prayer of the day is much longer because a portion of the Quran is read. This continues every night until the entire holy book has been read through.
“And then after completing this heavy task, praying and fasting — especially in the desert in the summer — that’s a very big process, so you celebrate,” he said.
Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr, usually just called Eid. Muslims go to a mosque for prayer and sometimes to listen to a speaker, and then celebrate with food, friends and family.
“You can go to Disney World if that’s what you want. It’s any kind of celebration,” he said.
According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims make up less than 1 percent of Southern Nevada’s population, but the community is still over 10,000 strong.
This year, congregations from every mosque in Las Vegas have agreed to come together in one place to pray on Eid, Karimian said. He said leaders from each mosque are still working on the details.
“It’s probably the biggest gathering of Muslims ever in Las Vegas,” he said.
Because Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, it lasts either 29 or 30 days. Eid this year will fall on June 3 or June 4.