A series of special religious observances - for Muslims,

Christians and Jews - unfold in the coming two weeks, each

of the occasions signifying humanity's dependence on God.

But they differ in form and procedure.

Islam's month of Ramadan starts this Sunday evening. Christianity's

holy week begins the following Palm Sunday, March 24, leading

to Easter Sunday, March 31. Judaism's Passover week commences March 29.

All three monotheistic religions are interlinked, both Christianity

and Islam finding prophetic roots in the older "mother

religion" of Judaism.

The chain of observances opens in Islam which, in its own

way, includes champions of all three faiths - Islam's founder

Mohammed, the Jewish hero of Passover, Moses, and Christianity's

savior, Jesus.

Muslims regard Jews and Christians as the "People of the

Book," the designation applied to them by Islam's Scriptures,

the Koran, referring to the Bible.

While many Westerners of predominantly Judeo-Christian affiliations

regard Islam as a remote, foreign faith of which they know

little, the Koran says of Jews and Christians in Sura 3:64:

"O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between

us and you: That we worship none but God."

Ramadan, ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a period

of daytime fasting whose observance is obligatory except

for travelers, the pregnant or sick. It is one of "five

pillars of Islam."

The period customarily begins in many Muslim countries with

repeated firing of cannons on the eve of the first day.

Days are marked from sunset to sunset in the Islamic calendar,

as in the Jewish calendar.

In Islamic thought, fasting points up limitations of self,

that without recognizing limitations real knowledge is impossible,

that only in seeing the limits of anything does its true

nature become evident.

By imposing limits through curbing indulgence day after

day, Ramadan is seen as underscoring a spiritual lesson

of full truth only in God, as well as being a kind of sacrificial

purification bringing renewal and fresh strength.

The observance also is meant to accent sympathy for the hungry.

Somewhat similarly, the week-long Jewish observance Passover,

recalling the slavery of Jews in Egypt and their deliverance

through God's intervention, also points up hopes of ultimate

redemption from human limitations.

A kindred note runs through the Christian concept of liberation

of humanity from its failings and sin through the resurrection

of their Godly trailblazer, Jesus Christ, from crucifixion and death.

Although Muslims have become a growing part of the U.S.

population, Islamic specialists say there is scant understanding

of that faith among others, or of its expressed connections

with Judaism and Christianity.

A principle of Islam is belief not only in the Koran, but

also respect for the Bible's Old and New Testaments, although

contemporary versions of them are said to have become adulterated.

Jewish and Christian scholars also regard many of the Koran's

retelling of biblical events as fragmentary and sometimes mistaken.

The main biblical stories are retold in the Koran, often

with less detail and differing incidentals. Regarding Jesus,

he is protrayed as born of the Virgin Mary, bringing the

Gospel, performing miracles and finally ascending to God.