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Ramadan Comes at a Time of Turmoil for Muslims

March 16, 1991

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Divided by the Persian Gulf crisis, Muslims enter the holy month of Ramadan united by their common faith and with hopes that political differences and wounds of war will be healed.

Ramadan, beginning Sunday in most of the Muslim world, is the time in which the Prophet Mohammed is said to have received God’s revelations of the Koran, the basis of the Islamic faith.

Characterized by fasting and special devotion to religious matters, Ramadan is of special significance this year.

This is the first Ramadan since Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of its Islamic neighbor, Kuwait, divided the emirate and its allies from supporters of Saddam Hussein.

″We hope that this holy season will bring us peace and prosperity and will help the Arab and Muslim nation to heal its wounds,″ Amman restaurant owner Nayef Kawash said Saturday.

Muhammad Samih, a supermarket owner, said Ramadan has always signified Muslim unity and faith.

″I hope this year we will have a single prayer for peace in the Middle East from the millions of Muslims spread all over the world,″ Samih said. ″We need a political prayer heard by God almighty for compassion between human beings in the world.″

Ahmad Hilayel, undersecretary of Jordan’s Ministry of Islamic Religious Affairs, said Ramadan is a time for Muslims to ″reassess our behavior and our souls during the past year and to contemplate the meaning of human life.″

″I hope that all the clouds that have prevailed in our Arab and Islamic nation as a result of the gulf crisis ... would disappear during this month,″ Hilayel said.

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd, in a Ramadan address read on state radio and television by Information Minister Ali al-Shaer, said the month began with ″victory and justice achieved with the help and power of God in liberating sister Kuwait.″

He also expressed ″commiseration with the sons of the Iraqi nation who have suffered much as a result of the behavior of the ruling regime in Iraq.″

During what is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims are required to do without food, drink and temporal pleasures from sunrise to sunset.

Non-Muslims are warned against eating, drinking or smoking in public.

Mosques become the center of activity. Worshipers gather for prayers, Koranic readings and sermons.

At night, people tend to make up for the deprivation during the day. Elaborate feasts are to be found in five-star hotels for foreign guests and Arabs alike.

The pace of life slows. Business and government in some parts of the Muslim world grind almost to a halt.

Many people sleep for much of the day and spend the nights in revelry as many restaurants, shops and markets reopen and the streets come alive again.

When the next crescent moon is sighted, Ramadan comes to an end with the three-day Eid al-Fitr, the celebration for breaking the fast.

Ibrahim Shamiyeh, a civil engineer, said he believed he was among many Muslims who were praying the Middle East’s leaders would reconcile and ″the dark cloud will disappear from the Arab skies.″

″Most of all,″ Samih said, ″may God protect us from the evils of war so that future generations may have a chance at living life as it should be lived: in peace.″

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