Observant Muslims across the state are fasting from sunrise to sunset because Ramadan begins today, July 9.

Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, is one of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam. Many Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from dawn to sunset during the month, which commemorates the divine revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.

In majority-Muslim countries, people often scale back their business activities, and life flows at a slower pace during the days of Ramadan. The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle, which is shorter than the sun-based Gregorian calendar, so Ramadan moves up 11 days every year. Ramadan can last 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle. For some Muslims, the exact date is uncertain until they see the new moon.

Several metro area Muslim leaders said their mosque communities will begin the holy month of fasting today.

Iftar is the sundown meal that breaks the Ramadan fast. Many Muslim individuals and families attend iftar gatherings at local mosques or other special sites. For the last few years, an iftar event has been held at the state Capitol building, including guest speakers from different faiths and dinner.

Eid- ul-Fitr is the annual festival that ends Ramadan. It will be observed on Aug. 8.

(PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN: A group prays during the 2011 Capitol Interfaith Iftar at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City.)