FACETS OF FAITH: June 4, 2016, Ramadan _lowres

Lebanese workers raise a crescent decoration that reads, "Happy Ramadan" as they prepare the streets for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Devout Muslims throughout the world will begin to celebrate Ramadan next week, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, refraining from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Each year, the Council on American-Islamic relations issues a news release on the upcoming holiday Ramadan, which starts at sundown Monday, June 6, this year. Visit the group’s website cair.org to learn more about Islam and Ramadan. Here are some of the questions and answers from the release:

How did the fast during Ramadan become obligatory for Muslims?

The revelations from God to the Prophet Muhammad that would eventually be compiled as the Quran began during Ramadan in the year 610, but the fast of Ramadan did not become a religious obligation for Muslims until the year 624. The obligation to fast is explained in the second chapter of the Quran: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. ... Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting.” (Chapter 2, verses 183 and 185)

What do Muslims believe they gain from fasting?

One of the main benefits of Ramadan is an increased compassion for those in need, a sense of self-purification, and reflection and a renewed focus on spirituality. Muslims also appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by family and friends throughout the month. Perhaps the greatest practical benefit is the yearly lesson in self-restraint and discipline that can carry forward to other aspects of a Muslim’s life such as work and education.

How can co-workers of other faiths and friends help someone who is fasting?

Employers, coworkers and teachers can help by understanding the significance of Ramadan and by showing a willingness to make minor allowances. ... Consideration can be given to such things as requests for vacation time, the need for flexible early morning or evening work schedules and lighter homework assignments.

It is also important that Muslim workers and students be given time to attend Eid prayers. ... Eid is as important to Muslims as Christmas and Yom Kippur are to Christians and Jews. A small token such as a card or baked goods given to a Muslim coworker during Eid al-Fitr might be appreciated.

Hospital workers should be aware that injections and oral medications might break the fast. Patients should be given the opportunity to decide whether or not their condition exempts them from fasting.