RAMADAN CELEBRATIONS TO BEGIN TODAY

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MOSCOW, October 14, (RIA Novosti's Olga Lipich) - Mosques will be filled all over the entire Moslem world at dusk October 14, thus making it possible to begin the holy month of Ramadan; Russia's Moslems will also gather at local mosques, performing the initial prayer, Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, Chairman of the Council of Russian Muftis, told RIA Novosti here today.

The Ramadan fast aims to bring one closer to the Almighty and to facilitate any Moslem's spiritual improvement, Gainutdin stressed. Any Moslem must be generous, fair, kind, gracious and compassionate all these days; he must particularly beware of any sin and evil. Those, who fast, become kinder, learning to understand others and to help needy people; the fast cleanses the soul, rather than the body, Gainutdin explained.

In his words, people must atone for their sins with the onset of Ramadan, forgiving mutual grudges, paying more attention to their parents and relatives and thus escaping the flames of hell, Gainutdin went on to say.

Ramadan, which is the Moslem calendar's ninth month, stipulates a fast, with Moslems linking this tradition with the Koran's incipient mundane history. According to the Koran's provisions, Prophet Mohammed received the Koran from Allah on Ramadan.

The Ramadan fast is perceived as one of Islam's five pillars. All Moslems must not eat or drink anything from dawn to dusk; nor can they smoke or indulge in any other sensual pleasures.

Moslems are supposed to become particularly devout during the holy month of Ramadan; five daily prayers are supplemented with an evening prayer, which is usually performed at mosques under the guidance of imams.

Well-to-do Moslems must also pay zakat tax in line with Sharia law during the fast; such tax proceeds are used to help the Moslem community, poor people, in the first place. According to Gainutdin, the Moslem board makes it incumbent on every Moslem to annually pay somewhere between 50 and 200 roubles during theRamadan season; the sum total depends on a Moslem's financial standing. (Each dollar costs about 29 roubles - Ed.)

Minors, disabled persons and elderly people, those suffering from chronic and incurable diseases, are allowed not to fast in line with Sharia law, Gainutdin told RIA Novosti. Sick persons and travelers can fast at any convenient time, the Mufti added.

Ramadan will culminate in a three-day feast, which is one of the most important Islamic holidays.

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