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Caspian Muslims Celebrate Ramadan Holiday After Month-Long Fasting

By Gaukhar Erubaeva and Gunay Hajiyeva April 21, 2023

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Heydar Mosque, the largest mosque in the South Caucasus, Baku, Azerbaijan / Courtesy

The Islamic holy month of fasting, Ramadan comes to an end this week with the celebration of a joyous festival called Eid (meaning “festival” in Arabic), or more properly Eid al-Fitr. Muslims offered a prayer to mark the end of Ramadan, which is the ninth and the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

The Islamic holy book, the Quran, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during this month. Millions of Muslims living in the Caspian coastal states mark the end of the month-long fasting and the beginning of the tenth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, Shawwal. To announce the start of Eid, clerics watch for the new moon that marks the start of the new month.

Throughout Ramadan, observant Muslims – except those who are sick, pregnant or elderly – fast from dawn until dusk on a daily basis. Muslims believe that with abstinence from eating and drinking during Ramadan, they grow closer to Allah.

In Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, Eid al-Fitr falls on Friday, April 21 as the new moon was visible at different times around the world. In Iran, the only Caspian country that has Islam as its official religion for the 80 million people living there, Ramadan holiday celebrations will take place on April  22.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is constitutionally secular, although it is home to nearly 10 million people, 97 percent of which are Muslim. A month-long period of fasting and reflection in Azerbaijan began on March 23, following a testimony, or fatwa, issued by the Caucasian Muslims Office – the main religious institute that coordinates Islamic activities in the country.

People flocked to mosques across the country to pray to Allah for a blessing upon their families, relatives and friends, and to help them live the rest of the year in good health and prosper. A special prayer service was held on Friday morning in Baku at the Azhdarbay, Tazapir, and Heydar mosques.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, President Ilham Aliyev inaugurated the Juma Mosque in one of the central districts of the capital Baku.

Muslims in Kazakhstan, which account for 70 percent of the country's overall population, also celebrated Eid on Friday. A large part of those living in Kazakhstan sees Ramadan as a cultural marker and a testimony to their spiritual heritage and respect for others. Eid al-Fitr is seen as the manifestation of a holy power that helps to strengthen unity among people.

Muslims in Turkmenistan, which account for 89 percent of its population, also celebrated Eid on Friday. There, Eid al-Fitr is a national holiday, and as such was made a non-working day.

April 21, 2023, marked the end of the holy month also in Russia, where it was celebrated by nearly 20 million Muslims, accounting for 15 percent of the country's population. Muslims congregate to pray, enjoy a big feast, give gifts to one another and donate food to the poor.