By Iftekhar Hai
26 Aug 2009
The present Muslim month of fasting will end after nearly a month with a celebration on Sept. 20.
Approximately 1.2 billion Muslims will observe the rituals of fasting one way or another. In all honesty, even the secular minded Muslims will have to respect the fasting by refraining from eating in front of other Muslims.
Discipline is the main underlying factor in this ritual of fasting which is found in all religions. Muslims are reminded of what God expects from them in this life.
To me, it is a reminder that fasting is mandatory for every able bodied and healthy person from the age of 15 years onward.
Older and sick people are exempted from fasting but they are asked to give monetary donations to the poor and hungry and help relieve the sufferings of the destitute and homeless.
The first three days of fasting are really hard. First, there is a headache from lack of caffeine followed by pangs of hunger when lunch time nears.
This year the fasting will last for nearly 15 hours — no water, no food, and no fun as we must stay away from carnal desires.
The Quran says, "Fasting is prescribed to Muslims just as it was prescribed to people before Muslims" — referring to Jews and Christians.
This is the month when Prophet Mohammed received the revelation called the Quran. The Quran also says, "We are sending a Prophet from among the Arabs and a Quran in Arabic — if this same message would have been delivered to you (Arabs) through Jews — you would not have listened — so to change your sinning ways for ever — a Quran in Arabic and a Prophet from the Arabs (Ref: Below) — descendant of Ismail, son of Abraham through Hager.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, Buddha, the enlightened one also fasted. He taught that unrestrained desires are the cause of human sufferings. Hinduism also has a great self-discipline — fasting is also a part of their religious ritual. Some Hindus eat only one meal a day all year around.
To a Muslim, the month of Ramadan is to reconnect with your Creator through fasting, prayers, and alms giving. Forgiveness, kindness and respect for all kinds of life is also a part of Ramadan fasting.
The fasting of the stomach must be matched by the fasting of the limbs. The eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet all have their respective fasts to undergo. The tongue's temptations, for example — lies, backbiting, slander, vulgarity and senseless argumentation — must be challenged and curbed to maintain the integrity of the fast.
Consciousness of behaviour and vigilance over action are the most profound dimensions of fasting: the fasting of the heart focuses on the attachment to the divine. That is when Ramadan really becomes a source of peace and solace, just as Christmas goes beyond the rituals to bring forth kindness, charity and caring.
True fasting is self-purification; and from this, a rich inner life that bring about values such as justice, generosity, patience, kindness, forgiveness, mercy and empathy — values that are indispensable for the success of the community.
For fasting to be truly universal, its benefits must extend beyond the fraternal ties of Muslims and must extend to forging a common humanity with others. Fasting is meant to impart a sense of what it means to be truly human, and its universality is reflected by its observance in Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Zoroastrian and other faiths.
Ramadan will come and go with such stealth that we cannot but be reminded of our mortality. What is it that we value and why? Habits, customs, even obsessive behaviour like smoking can be curtailed with relative ease in the face of a higher calling.
Ref: Quran Surah: verses 5:19, 6: 156 & 157, 26:192 to 201, 32:3, 41:44 Yusuf Ali translations. All these verses have to be read in linkage – then you get to know the reasons why Prophet Mohammed was sent to Arabs. "If the same message was delivered through Jews you would not have accepted..."
The author Iftekhar Hai is President of United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance, USA. Source: www.umaia.net
Ramadan feasts serve spiritual, social purposes for Muslims
August 30, 2009
MARSHFIELD -- The mosque, tucked along a quiet street on the north side of the city, bustled with Muslim families eager to see each other as the first week of Ramadan came to a close.
Many of the families had come from Wausau, Stevens Point and even as far as Milwaukee.
Children darted back and forth, chasing each other and laughing.
And at 7:43 p.m., the sun, already out of sight thanks to rainy Wisconsin skies, set -- and the feast began.
Healthy Muslim adults fast from sunrise to sunset throughout the month of Ramadan, which is significant for Muslims because of their belief that it is the time when the Holy Quran was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad.
But small parties are organized throughout the month, bringing the Muslim community together.
In other countries, the meals often are organized to feed the poor, said Dr. Ihab Abdalrah, who serves as the Marshfield mosque's treasurer. But in central Wisconsin, where about 90 percent of the congregation consists of physicians' families, it is a symbolic gesture.
"This is mainly to realize what its like," he said.
The mosque is the only one in central Wisconsin, and particularly during Ramadan, it draws families from across the state.
Dr. Sabo Tanimu, who works and lives in Weston, was at the mosque for the first time Saturday, enjoying food and prayer.
After surviving his first Wisconsin winter following a move from Tampa, Fla., Tanimu said having a mosque in the area is significant for the Muslim community.
Dr. Mohammed Moizuddin, a former Marshfield Clinic doctor who recently moved to Milwaukee for a fellowship, returned Saturday for the celebration and several important elections.
Members chose to continue to have Dr. Qasim Raza serve as the president and spiritual leader of the Islamic Society of Central Wisconsin.
"We're grateful and thankful that he gives to the community," Moizuddin said.
Moizuddin said he has watched in awe as more and more families have come to the mosque, helping it thrive, and working to counteract misconceptions of Islam that still exist. Graciously, he welcomed anyone into the Mosque on Saturday to eat, pray or simply observe.
"It's amazing for me," he said. "I've realized the Muslim population has remained about the same, but more and more people are aware of the mosque and coming to Marshfield."
Dr. Salman Ahmed recently moved to the region from Pittsburgh. Though the Muslim community was larger there, he said central Wisconsin allows for closer connections to build.
"In big places there are so many people out there," he said. "But in small places, you feel more important with the people."
"Ramadan teaches us self-sacrifice and patience"
30 Aug, 2009
Each day, Rifat Muhammad wakes before 4 a.m. to make a meal for her three children and husband during the holy month of Ramadan.
The family must eat before sunrise, knowing they won't have food or water again until after sunset at about 8:15 p.m.
"Ramadan teaches us self-sacrifice and patience," she said. "It reminds us there are people throughout the world who go without food all day, and don't have a meal to eat in the evening."
Each night, her children, ages 14, 7 and 5, gather at the table with their parents for iftar, the breaking of the fast, though the two youngest are not required to fast throughout the day. The family eats a date, as the Prophet Muhammad did when he broke his fast, and drink water. They then hold an extended fifth daily prayer, when a portion of the Quran is recited from memory, completing the entire scripture by the month's end. Then, finally, they have a meal together.
Saturday night, they joined with more than 800 Muslims and non-Muslims to share a community iftar at Khadeeja mosque in West Valley City, hosted by the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake.
"We pick one day where we invite Muslims from all the mosques in the valley to gather and exchange greetings," said Iqbal Hossein, president of the society. "America is a diverse nation, and we want to be part of that diverse fabric. We felt the need to let people know we are very much part of this American fabric."
Men and women sat in separate areas outside the mosque. The area was bordered with shoes and sandals left by people who went barefoot on the long rows of beige carpets stretched along the ground, then kneeled or sat cross-legged to eat. Traditional dates and water were followed by prayers inside the mosque.
After prayers, they came outside to partake of traditional Pakistani food such as lamb curries and basmati rice, made by the men of the congregation, and pakoras -- stuffed, fried appetizers -- and baklava made by the women.
During Ramadan, Muslims must abstain from not only eating and drinking but adult relations, back-biting, cheating, gambling "or anything else that demeans ourselves or others," said Muhammed Mehtar, imam for the society.
"It is much easier to pray five times a day when fasting," Mehtar said. "The fact that we are fasting means we are inclined to do more good during this month."
Saturday, about a dozen men sat down in chairs in a tent to share their meal at a table with Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, who attended his first iftar.
"It's an honour to have been invited not only to share the spiritual nature of the service but also to break bread with friends," Corroon said. "One of the reasons I came was to better understand the Muslim community and the Islamic faith. Whether you're an elected official or just a citizen, it's important to understand who our neighbours are."