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(AGI) Rome, June 18 - Ramadan, a month of fasting, began onThursday for 1.5 billion Muslims, more than 23 percent of theworld's population. Ramadan means "scorching hot", as itoriginally fell in summer. The day changes each year as theIslamic calendar is a lunar calendar. It is the ninth month inthe calendar and is considered the most sacred time whenGabriel the Archangel revealed the Koran to Muhammad. For 30days all Muslims must abstain from drinking, eating, smoking orhaving sex from dawn to dusk. Minors, the elderly, thechronically ill and pregnant or nursing women are exempt.Fasting must also cease during the menstrual period. Justbefore dawn the observant are allowed to have suhur, a lightmeal, to start the day. At dusk, fasting ends by eating dates,as the Prophet used to do. Ramadan has a spiritual meaning as amonth of purging, when the faithful learn self-discipline,control over physical drives, patience and the love of God, aswell as the sense of belonging to a community. Muslims alsoattend mosques during the fasting for five daily prayers and atnight to say a prayer called the Taraweeh. The holy month endswith the Eid al-Fitr, a major Islamic celebration with the Eidal-Adha, which celebrates Abraham's good will in offering tosacrifice his son Isaac to God. The feast lasts three days withprayers, acts of charity, visiting relatives, exchanging giftsand banqueting. . .