Wednesday marked the first day of Ramadan. During this month, observing Muslims around the world fast by abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islamic faith along with belief in the oneness of God and in Muhammad as God's messenger, performing the daily prayers, paying the yearly charity due (Zakat), and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).
The command for fasting came from God to Prophet Muhammad the second year in the Islamic calendar, 624 AD.
"Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear signs for guidance and judgment between right and wrong. So every one of you who is present at his home during that month should spend it in fasting. But if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up by days later. God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. He wants you to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify your Lord. In that God has guided you; and perchance you shall be grateful."(Al-Quran, 2:183)
For Muslims, Ramadan is the month of self-restraint, self-purification and increased spirituality. Not only are they to abstain from worldly pleasures while fasting, but more importantly, they are expected to control their temper, be more charitable, and seek a closer connection with the Creator through additional prayer and reading of the Quran. Moreover, in this month, a fasting person gains more understanding and compassion toward those who face hunger due to their unfortunate circumstances.
The Prophet Mohammad said, "When any one of you is observing fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language nor should he raise his voice; and if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: 'I am observing fast."
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, "If one does not avoid lies and false conduct, God has no need that he should abstain from his food and his drink."
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Because it is a lunar calendar, Ramadan moves forward in the solar calendar by about 11 days every year. Hence a Muslim in his or her lifetime experiences fasting in all seasons. The fast each day begins at dawn and ends at sunset.
To show support for your Muslim friends and colleagues during this month, simply be aware of them fasting and use common sense. No special treatment or accommodations are expected. Do satisfy your natural curiosity, ask questions and learn about the Ramadan fast in your social conversations. This is particularly important today to combat the prevailing misperceptions about Islam and to promote interfaith understanding and fellowship.
To celebrate this month with the members of the local faith community, the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge is holding its fourth annual Ramadan Interfaith Potluck Dinner on Friday, Aug. 20 at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. All are welcome to attend. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 16.
LEVENT AKBARUT can be reached at email@example.com.