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Muslims pack mosque to pray

Updated: 2015-07-13 07:35
By Hu Yongqi in Urumqi (China Daily)

 Muslims pack mosque to pray

Muslims celebrating Ramadam pray at Baida Mosque in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Thursday. Hu Yongqi / China Daily

More than 3,000 Muslims arrived at Baida Mosque on Friday carrying blankets to kneel on as they chanted passages from the Quran in a service led by an imam.

A further 330 who arrived late at the mosque in downtown Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, lined up in the street to pray.

Urumqi has more than 400 mosques, and as the prayers proceeded police patrolled nearby to ensure the safety of those taking part.

Muslims in the region have been celebrating Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, since June 22. Ramadan continues until July 18 in Xinjiang, home to more than 12 million Muslims and 24,000 mosques, according to Ma Pinyan, a researcher at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

During the month, Muslims concentrate on prayer while spending less time on their everyday tasks, and are not allowed to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset.

Abdu Rahman, the assistant imam at Baida Mosque, led prayers on Friday by reciting passages from the Quran and preaching about the need to help neighbors and other people. He also instructed believers to teach their children Islamic traditions.

"Our mosque receives about 1,200 Muslims each day before and after Ramadan. But on each day of Ramadan, more than 3,000 Muslims come for prayers. The largest number of people we saw was 10,000," said Rahman.

Abdi Ghufur, the muezzin, who calls people to pray at the mosque, said adult Muslims must fast and pray. Pregnant women, the elderly, children and the sick or injured can be exempted from the requirement.

"About 80 percent of fasting Muslims coming to our mosque are 18 to 35 years old," he said.

Fasting is a personal choice, said Siemat from the Islamic association in Urumqi's Tianshan district.

Muslims use a lunar calendar, so Ramadan moves forward by 12 to 15 days on the Gregorian calendar each year. As a result, the length of time spent fasting can vary from 13 hours to more than 18 hours depending on the time of year. This year has the longest period, Siemat said.

"Fasting is a belief in our religion, so we can bear hunger and thirst for 18 hours," he added.

After sunset, Muslims can eat at home or in mosques before the evening prayer. Baida Mosque, like the others in Urumqi, hires cooks to prepare food.

Alimu, a chef at a hotel near the mosque, volunteers to help there every day after work. He said, "I help to cook food for four hours, just to do something good."


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