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See how almost a quarter of humanity ushered in Ramadan, their holiest month

<strong>Istanbul, Turkey:</strong> Muslim worshippers perform a night prayer called 'tarawih' during the eve of the first day of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan  at Hagia Sophia mosque on Friday, April 1, 2022.
Emrah Gurel
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AP
Istanbul, Turkey: Muslim worshippers perform a night prayer called 'tarawih' during the eve of the first day of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at Hagia Sophia mosque on Friday, April 1, 2022.

Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, began this weekend for the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. From sun-up to sundown, the physically able among them will fast — abstaining not just from food but also so much as a sip of water.

"[The pandemic] has touched home in many, many ways," Makram Nu'man El-Amin, an imam in Minneapolis, told NPR on Saturday.

"So just the idea of being able to come back together during this special month — the month of fasting, the month of reflection, the month of, you know, self-development and all of it, the month of being charitable, etc — all the things that we love to do, desire to do, we'll be able to do, at least in a greater measure than we have been over the past couple of years. So I'm just excited. And I'm so grateful for this moment."

<strong>Podgorica, Montenegro</strong>: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.
Milos Vujovic / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Podgorica, Montenegro: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.
<strong>Moscow, Russia:</strong> Muslims perform first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at Central Mosque.
Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Moscow, Russia: Muslims perform first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at Central Mosque.
<strong>Gaza City, Gaza:</strong> This long exposure picture shows Palestinians standing next to the lantern known in Arabic as "Fanous Ramadan" on the first day of the start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Mohammed Abed / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Gaza City, Gaza: This long exposure picture shows Palestinians standing next to the lantern known in Arabic as "Fanous Ramadan" on the first day of the start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
<strong>Peshawar, Pakistan:</strong> A man tries on a traditional cap in preparation for Ramadan.
Muhammad Sajjad / AP
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AP
Peshawar, Pakistan: A man tries on a traditional cap in preparation for Ramadan.

While it's easy to think of Ramadan as a holiday, it's not. Muslims go to work and school and carry on with their everyday life.

In that respect, the true purpose of the month is discipline and dedication. The fast extends to more than food. Muslims are expected to practice how to avoid impure thoughts and deeds.

Ramadan provides a constant physical reminder of God, as well as a reminder of all the people in the world who don't have enough food or water. "It creates an impetus of both gratitude and charity," said Adeel Zeb — Muslim chaplain at The Claremont Colleges — in an interview with NPR in 2017 .

<strong>New Delhi, India:</strong> Muslims offer Friday prayers at Jama Masjid ahead of the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
Sonu Mehta / Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Hindustan Times via Getty Images
New Delhi, India: Muslims offer Friday prayers at Jama Masjid ahead of the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
<strong>Istanbul, Turkey:</strong> Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.
Ali Atmaca / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Istanbul, Turkey: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.

The month is centered on charity, worship, and developing empathy and connection to others. But there is also a strong communal aspect that's an essential part of the experience.

However, for the last two years as a pandemic raged, the coronavirus did away with many of those rituals. Gone were the big group dinners, the visits to the mosques, the early-morning runs to IHOP for pancakes before fasting begins — along with so many other beloved aspects of the month.

This year, many Muslims plan to resume the nightly gatherings, Iftar, where they can break their day-long fast together. Many are also looking forward to the communal tarawih prayers that follow the fast-breaking.

<strong>Moscow, Russia</strong>: Muslims perform first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at Central Mosque.
Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Moscow, Russia: Muslims perform first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at Central Mosque.
<strong>Tangerang, Indonesia:</strong> Children bath in the Cisadane River on the first evening of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Tatan Syuflana / AP
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AP
Tangerang, Indonesia: Children bath in the Cisadane River on the first evening of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
<strong>Pristina, Kosovo:</strong> Muslims gather to perform first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.
Erkin Keci / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Pristina, Kosovo: Muslims gather to perform first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

That's welcome news for adherents like Rizwan Ali.

"The worst part is just missing people, honestly," Ali, the imam of the Islamic Center of Naperville, Illinois, told NPR in 2020. "I was saying that, you know, after I was preparing for the prayers, I was making wudu [cleansing the body before prayers] in my house. And I was, like, you know, I never thought that I would miss the long lines in the mosque to make wudu and to prepare for the prayer. Well, those are the little things that you miss - the smiles, the faces. I can close my eyes and tell you where each person is sitting. And I'm missing all of those little experiences now."

<strong>Hyderabad, Pakistan:</strong> Pakistani men makes traditional sweets at a market to be displayed for sale ahead of Ramadan.
Pervaiz Masih / AP
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AP
Hyderabad, Pakistan: Pakistani men makes traditional sweets at a market to be displayed for sale ahead of Ramadan.
<strong>Ankara, Turkey:</strong> Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.
Muhammed Yaylali / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ankara, Turkey: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

Ramadan is a month that Muslims believe God revealed the Quran, Islam's holy text, to the Prophet Muhammad. It officially begins at the first sighting of the waxing crescent after the new moon, leading to different countries declaring its start a day or two apart. For most countries this year, it began Friday evening.

The month ends with Eid al-Fitr — a three-day celebration, a time to eat and drink and rejoice after a month of fasting and long nights of worship.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

<strong>Washington, D.C.:</strong> Muslims gather to perform first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.
Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Washington, D.C.: Muslims gather to perform first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.
<strong>Jerusalem, Israel:</strong> A Palestinian man hangs decorative lights in preparation for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
Mahmoud Illean / AP
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AP
Jerusalem, Israel: A Palestinian man hangs decorative lights in preparation for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.