AUSTIN (KXAN) — This weekend marked the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month where observers around the world fast from dawn until dusk while also increasing their prayers, acts of service and community bonding.

That community spirit was especially poignant this year, as members of the Islamic Center of Greater Austin gathered for their first iftar — or meal eaten after breaking fast at sunset — since the coronavirus pandemic began more than two years ago.

Ramadan began Saturday and will continue until May 2. In addition to increased prayer, acts of service and bonding, the holy month also promotes self-reflection and the removal of bad habits.

“When we have that community and we’re closer together, it feels much more spiritually — we’re more spiritually engaged,” said Kareem Abdi of the Islamic Center of Greater Austin. “That’s why it’s very important to have that community.”