Muslims around the world will soon mark the start of Ramadan, a month of prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts.

Religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia and elsewhere in the Muslim world have declared based on sightings of the moon that the lunar month, and thus the daily fasting, will begin Thursday.

Observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from sunrise to sunset for the entire month of Ramadan, with a single sip of water considered enough to invalidate the fast, one of the five pillars of Islam.

The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Muslims break their fast with water and dates, followed by a meal with family and friends.