Every year, just before the ninth lunar month begins, Muslims wait until dusk, then look up.
If they see a hint of the new moon, they know the time has come for praying, for giving, for fasting.
The monthlong holiday of Ramadan begins with charity and ends with feasting. It is an annual reminder that earthly deeds bring heavenly rewards — or eternal suffering.
This year, the holiday may begin today. It could also begin Wednesday, or even Thursday, depending on who sees the moon, and when.
"Some believe in a universal sighting," said Zafar Khan, a Boeing engineer who worships at Masjid Umar al Farooq mosque in Mountlake Terrace. "If it is sighted anywhere in the world, Ramadan begins. Others say it's not credible unless it's sighted in the U.S., or in your own region."
For Muslims who believe in a universal sighting, their holiest of months could coincide with the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
That won't change the way they worship, local Muslims said.
"I believe every Muslim believes 9/11 has nothing to do with religion," said Jeff Siddiqui of American Muslims of the Puget Sound. "We don't consider it a linkage with faith. We consider faith to be a sacred thing, and evil to be just that: evil."
On Sunday, Muslims marched in New York City for the annual American Muslim Day Parade. They spoke out against the attacks of six years ago and against subsequent terror strikes.
For many Snohomish County Muslims, the season of Ramadan is entirely separate from anything having to do with terrorism and world politics. . .
Ramadan, the monthlong Muslim holiday, occurs in the ninth month on the lunar calendar. It begins at sundown, at the first sighting of the new moon.
Muslims believe the Koran, the Islamic holy book, was revealed to the prophet Mohammed during the month of Ramadan. Today, the month is marked with fasting, praying and giving to charity.
During Ramadan, mosques and other Islamic centers often plan meals to break the fast.
At Msjid Umar al Farooq mosque at 5507 238th St. SW in Mountlake Terrace, meals will be held after sunset on Sept. 22, Sept. 29 and Oct. 6.
For more information on meals and other Ramadan events held around the Puget Sound region, contact Arsalan Bukhari, president of the Washington State chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, at 206-931-3655.