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Islam and the West ( 21 Aug 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

US President Barack Obama’s Ramadan Message

Ramadan: Period of self-restraint for Muslims

Christians Called to be Spiritually Active during Ramadan

Pray now or pray later: Islamic calendar confusion

URL:http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/us-president-barack-obama’s-ramadan-message/d/1671

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   US President Barack Obama’s Ramadan Message

 

On behalf of the American people – including Muslim communities in all fifty states – I want to extend best wishes to Muslims in America and around the world. Ramadan Kareem.

 

Ramadan is the month in which Muslims believe the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, beginning with a simple word – iqra. It is therefore a time when Muslims reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God.

 

Like many people of different faiths who have seen Ramadan through our communities and families, I know this to be a festive time –a time when families gather and meals are shared. But I also know that

Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection – a time when Muslims fast during the day and perform tarawih prayers at night, reciting and listening to the entire Koran over the course of the month.

 

These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.

 

For instance, fasting is a concept shared by many faiths – including my own Christian faith – as a way to bring people closer to God, and to those among us who cannot take their next meal for granted. And the support that Muslims provide to others recalls our responsibility to advance opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere. For all of us must remember that the world we want to build – and the changes that we want to make – must begin in our own hearts, and our own communities.

 

This summer, people across America have served in their communities – educating children, caring for the sick, and extending a hand to those who have fallen on hard times. Faith-based organizations, including many Islamic organizations, have been at the forefront in participating in this summer of service. And in these challenging times, this is a spirit of responsibility that we must sustain in the months and years to come.

 

Beyond America’s borders, we are also committed to keeping our responsibility to build a world that is more peaceful and secure. That is why we are responsibly ending the war in Iraq. That is why we are isolating violent extremists while empowering the people in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we strongly and actively support a two-state solution that recognizes the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security. And that is why America will always stand for the universal rights of all people to speak their mind, practice their religion, contribute fully to society and have confidence in the rule of law.

 

All of these efforts are a part of America’s commitment to engage Muslims and Muslim-majority nations on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect. And at this time of renewal, I want to reiterate my commitment to a new beginning between America and Muslims around the world.

 

As I said in Cairo, this new beginning must be borne out in a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground. I believe an important part of this is listening, and in the last two months, American embassies around the world have reached out not just to governments, but directly to people in Muslim-majority countries. And from around the world, we have received an outpouring of feedback about how America can be a partner on behalf of peoples’ aspirations.

 

We have listened. And like you, we are focused on pursuing concrete actions that will make a difference over time – both in terms of the political and security issues that I have discussed, and in the areas

that you have told us will make the most difference in peoples’ lives.

 

These consultations are helping us implement the partnerships that I called for in Cairo – to expand education exchange programs; to foster entrepreneurship and create jobs; and to increase collaboration on science and technology, while supporting literacy and vocational learning. We are also moving forward in partnering with the OIC and OIC member states to eradicate polio, while working closely with the

international community to confront common health challenges like H1N1 – which I know is of particular to concern many Muslims preparing for the hajj.

 

All of these efforts are aimed at advancing our common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our faith. It will take time and patient effort. We cannot change things over night, but we can honestly resolve to do what must be done, while setting off in a new direction – toward the destination that we seek for ourselves, and for our children. That is the journey that we must travel together.

 

I look forward to continuing this critically important dialogue and turning it into action. And today, I want to wish Muslims across America and around the world a blessed month as you welcome the beginning of Ramadan. May God’s peace be upon you!

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Ramadan: Period of self-restraint for Muslims

Friday, August 21, 2009

BY MARY KLAUS mklaus@patriot-news.com

Most people would find a daily dawn-to-dusk fast challenging at best and painful at worst.

Imagine being Mohammad Arshad, who spends his days making fried chicken, hamburgers, cheesesteaks, gyros and other food while working at Steelton Fried Chicken.

As Arshad prepares for this weekend's start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month featuring daily fasting, he's gearing himself up for seeing but not partaking of any food or beverages while he's at work.

"Yes, you get hungry and thirsty especially when you work with food," Arshad said. "But after the first 10 days, you get used to it. The fast gives you inner strength and makes you think a moment before doing something. It's a time to overhaul our souls."

Ramadan, which starts after the new moon that begins the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is a time of special devotion and celebration for Muslims.

Muslims believe that the lunar month commemorates the time that the Quran, the Muslim holy book, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad from Allah about 1,400 years ago. Ramadan starts this weekend and runs for a month.

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset, said Athar Aziz, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Harrisburg mosque in Steelton.

Muslims come to the mosque during Ramadan to hear each of the 30 books of the Quran read, Aziz said. Through their fasting, prayer and good works, Muslims renew their sense of connection to God. They also draw closer to one another by coming together each evening to pray and break their fasts.

Muslims break their daily fast with dates and water, then prayers and an evening meal, Aziz said. At the end of the month, Muslims have Id al-Fitr, a festival featuring a fancy meal, visits with family and friends and often an exchange of presents. This year, the festival will be either Sept. 20 or 21.

Ramadan is a sacred time for the 400 families belonging to the Islamic Society of Greater Harrisburg mosque in Steelton, Aziz said.

Aziz said self-restraint is a discipline that can keep people from committing sins and injustices.

"We fast from the first thread of light until after sundown," he said. "Absolutely no food or drink, not even water, is allowed. We fast not to stay hungry, but to earn Allah's love and mercy. Muslims try to please Allah every day."

As part of their faith, Muslims pray five times daily: between the first thread of light and dawn, around 1:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., right after sunset and 11/2 hours after sunset.

Aziz said that Muslims don't eat pork, drink alcohol or gamble.

"The laws of God are for us to live in harmony with each other," Aziz said. "All religions follow this."

http://www.pennlive.com/living/patriotnews/religion/index.ssf?/base/living/1250803512234760.xml&coll=1

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Christians Called to be Spiritually Active during Ramadan

By Jennifer Riley Aug. 21 2009

As Muslims around the world prepare for Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, some Christians are planning to join them in prayer, but with a different purpose.

Beginning Saturday, Muslims will fast, pray, give to charity and try harder to live according to the teachings of Islam. For the next 30 days, Muslims will not eat, drink or engage in sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk with the hope that they can get closer to God.

 “It’s kind of a time of seeking in a certain sense, when they’re fasting and they’re more geared toward spiritual things,” said Sammy Tippit, an evangelist who focuses on reaching Muslims, to Mission Network News (MNN). “And it’s out of a sense for God – a thirst for God and a hunger for God. And during these times of Ramadan, many will have dreams about Jesus.”

Because Muslims – especially young ones – are searching for truth and seeking God during this time period, organizations such as MNN are encouraging Christians to pray that Muslims will come to know Jesus Christ as their savior.

MNN noted that a growing number of young people in Iran, for example, are disillusioned with the Islamic faith. Many Iranian young people see corrupt political leaders that are closely tied to the country’s supreme spiritual Islamic leader.

In June, the world witnessed widespread protests in Iran over the contested reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose alleged victory was labeled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a "divine assessment." Ahmadinejad’s inauguration was held on Aug. 5 in Tehran amid protests held outside the Parliament.

To help Christians pray during Ramadan, MNN is offering a prayer guide, World Christian’s 30 Days Muslim Prayer Guide, that provides insight on the culture and practices of various Muslim countries. The prayer guide also includes information to help participants understand Christian and Muslim differences.

While Christianity today remains the world’s largest religion, with between 1.5 billion and 2.1 billion adherents (about a quarter to a third of the world’s population), Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, according to some estimates. Muslims reportedly account for one-fifth of the world’s population.

http://www.christianpost.com/article/20090821/christians-called-to-be-spiritually-active-during-ramadan/index.html

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Pray now or pray later: Islamic calendar confusion

 

Muslim communities across the GTA are preparing to start the holy month of fasting and prayer. But is it tomorrow, Saturday or Sunday? Well-meaning strides in science have only deepened the gulf between theories on when the lunar month truly begins

Aug 20, 2009 04:30 AM

NOOR JAVED, Staff Reporter

It is known as the pre-Ramadan headache. But for Muslims in Toronto, the ailment has nothing to do with anxiety around fasting from sunrise to sunset in the coming days.

Instead, it is caused by confusion that every year precedes the month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection, which starts this weekend.

It's from simply trying to answer the question: When does the month officially start?

"It's a not an easy question to answer," said Taha Ghayyur, coordinator of the Muslim information portal Torontomuslims.com, which attempts to sort out the details for the community.

"This year, it is pretty much between Friday or Saturday ... and for some in Toronto, it could also be Sunday," he said.

Traditionally, some Muslims in Toronto have literally looked to the skies on the eve of Ramadan – the month the Qur'an was revealed – for signs of the new moon to determine when the holy month begins.

Another group, mostly from the Arab world, used global moon sighting, and start fasting at the same time as Muslims in Saudi Arabia.

But in recent years, scholars in North America introduced a new idea to use scientific astronomical calculations to predetermine the first day of Ramadan. When introduced in 2006 by the Fiqh Council of North America, an organization that forms legal opinions on Islam, it was meant to unify the community.

It ended up doing the opposite.

"It has added to the confusion," said Ghayyur. "Since most people see all three as Islamically correct, now people have too many options in a way."

Many in the community say that within the issue of moon sighting is a deeper debate, one between those trying to find ways to modernize Islamic traditions within the bounds of Islam, and those struggling to hold fast to tradition.

The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle over a period of 12 months, with each month lasting 29 or 30 days. The length of the month can only be determined when the new moon is born, and according to some, when it is first seen, or when science determines it has appeared.

In 2006, the Fiqh Council and numerous scholars decided that scientific calculations were an Islamically valid method of predicting a moon sighting.

The decision was made with the hope that predetermining the day for Ramadan and for Eid, the holiday marking the end of the month, would make it easier for Muslims to plan ahead, and eventually use the consensus to leverage governments for a statutory holiday.

It hasn't quite worked out that way.

"I think people have just agreed to disagree," said Ahmed Kutty, the imam at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, which follows the Fiqh Council decision.

The group calculated weeks ago that Ramadan will begin Saturday.

The strides toward science sparked outrage from groups who felt this new, scientific method was challenging a tradition that had been around for more than 1,400 years.

"We follow the tradition of the Prophet in that we sight the moon to declare the first of the month, this is the way it has always been done," said Yunus Pandor, a coordinator with the Hilal Committee of Metropolitan Toronto and Vicinity.

The group, made up of more than 75 local mosques, both Sunni and Shia, will gather tomorrow night at a local mosque to determine whether the first day of Ramadan is Saturday or Sunday.

They will look for the moon locally, and also get reports of moon sighting from the local boundaries, stretching west to Chicago, and south to the Caribbean.

Pandor said tomorrow's local forecast is cloudy.

The group doesn't completely discount astronomical calculations either, he said. "We use astronomical calculation as a support, but not as a means, to decide.

"We have to see the moon."

Acceptance of the new method came only after years of internal debates, arguments and theological discussions.

For some, it has even meant division within their family.

"One year, my parents and I started fasting on different days," said Mississauga resident Yaseen Poonah. "But I realized that it wasn't the same enjoyment in the month."

That is how most people end up deciding, said Poonah. They either seek consensus with their family or friends, or go with what their local mosque is doing.

Or they just hope that despite the differing opinions, Ramadan still ends up starting on the same day.

"There is always a chance that the moon will be seen Friday," said Poonah. "That way almost everyone will start Saturday."

It is known as the pre-Ramadan headache. But for Muslims in Toronto, the ailment has nothing to do with anxiety around fasting from sunrise to sunset in the coming days.

Instead, it is caused by confusion that every year precedes the month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection, which starts this weekend.

It's from simply trying to answer the question: When does the month officially start?

"It's a not an easy question to answer," said Taha Ghayyur, coordinator of the Muslim information portal Torontomuslims.com, which attempts to sort out the details for the community.

"This year, it is pretty much between Friday or Saturday ... and for some in Toronto, it could also be Sunday," he said.

Traditionally, some Muslims in Toronto have literally looked to the skies on the eve of Ramadan – the month the Qur'an was revealed – for signs of the new moon to determine when the holy month begins.

Another group, mostly from the Arab world, used global moon sighting, and start fasting at the same time as Muslims in Saudi Arabia.

But in recent years, scholars in North America introduced a new idea to use scientific astronomical calculations to predetermine the first day of Ramadan. When introduced in 2006 by the Fiqh Council of North America, an organization that forms legal opinions on Islam, it was meant to unify the community.

It ended up doing the opposite.

"It has added to the confusion," said Ghayyur. "Since most people see all three as Islamically correct, now people have too many options in a way."

Many in the community say that within the issue of moon sighting is a deeper debate, one between those trying to find ways to modernize Islamic traditions within the bounds of Islam, and those struggling to hold fast to tradition.

The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle over a period of 12 months, with each month lasting 29 or 30 days. The length of the month can only be determined when the new moon is born, and according to some, when it is first seen, or when science determines it has appeared.

Full Report At: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/683232

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/us-president-barack-obama’s-ramadan-message/d/1671

 

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