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Muslim religious leaders prepare for fasting month

COTABATO CITY, July 27 — Muslim scholars here are certain the new moon can be sighted on the early evening of July 31, which will signal the start of the Islamic Ramadhan fasting season on August 1.

“Muslim religious leaders in different parts of ARMM will all together observe the skies on the night of July 31 to see if the new moon appears. This is in keeping with the tradition started by our ancient Islamic leaders in the Middle East,” said Ustadz Jaafar Ali, a key member of the local Darul Iftah, or House of Opinions.

If the moon is not sighted on July 31, automatically the fasting month starts on August 1.

Uztadz Esmael Ebrahim, another member of the Darul Iftah, has appealed to Muslims here not to fire their guns as part of the revelry at the start of the Ramadhan season.

"Traditionally, Muslim gun owners fire their guns to signal the start of fasting month to drive away evil spirits," Ebrahim said, adding that it has no religious or scientific basis.

Ramadhan is a “holy month” for Muslims, where they fast from dawn to dusk for one lunar cycle, or about 30 days, as a religious obligation.

Fasting during Ramadhan is one of the so-called five pillars of Islam, which include belief in Allah, praying five times a day facing the direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, giving of zakat (alms) to the poor, and for the financially-capable, going at least once in a lifetime to Mecca for the hajj, or pilgrimage.

Police and military authorities have been on heightened alert since Tuesday to prevent bombings and kidnappings during the 30-day Ramadhan fasting season.

Director Felicisimu Khu, chief of the Directorate for Police Operations (DIPO) in Western Mindanao, said dozens of plainclothes agents have been deployed in terminals and busy spots in Central Mindanao and surrounding provinces as part of the security measures.

"In the past, crimes and terrorism usually occur ahead of the fasting month, so our troops are now on high alert status,” Khu said.

Chief Supt. Bienvenido Latag, regional director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police, said policemen have been fielded in major entry and exit points in Lanao del Sur, Marawi City and Maguindanao, and in the sea ports and airports in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Latag said sufficient number of policemen have also been deployed in Lamitan City, seat of the provincial government of Basilan.

Last year's fasting month was most peaceful in recent years due to everybody's cooperation, according to Latag. (PNA) DCT/LAM/NYP/EOF

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