Being the third “pillar,” or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, is the important practice of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours
By FELICIA C. HANEY
This past weekend began the ninth month of the Islamic calendar more popularly known as the month of Ramadan. Throughout this month, billions of Muslims worldwide uphold a religious duty to fast from the breaking of dawn to the setting of the sun each day. In celebration of that, the Council on American Islamic Relations will hold its Ninth annual Sharing Ramadan Iftar dinner with the public. This is an interfaith dinner designed to bring all creeds together to not only celebrate the holy month, but to create dialogue, challenge Islamophobia and better understand why Ramadan is so important to Muslims.
The event begins with registration at6:30 p.m.at the Islamic Center,6055 W. 130th StreetinParma, followed by a short program at 7. The program will be keynoted by Saeed A. Khan, a professor atWayneStateUniversitywho teaches Islamic and Middle East History, Islamic Civilizations and History of Islamic Political Thought. Khan also teaches a course on Muslim-Christian Diversity atRochesterCollege. His analysis has been requested by an array of media outlets including C-Span, BBC, NPR, the National Press Club and a host of others. Now he brings his expertise toClevelandto share this Ramadan with friends and potential friends of the Muslim community.
With Islam being the fastest growing religion in the world at more than a billion followers, Ramadan is being recognized on a larger scale. You may have noticed it popping up on that list of holidays on your calendar. But if you’ve paid close attention, you’d notice that it doesn’t fall at the same time each year. The Islamic calendar is lunar and therefore marked by the sighting of the new moon, which means that Ramadan lasts either 29 or 30 days depending on when the next new moon is spotted. With their lunar calendar being 11 to 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan migrates throughout the seasons. That means that Muslims will eventually fast every month of our calendar. The entire cycle takes around 35 years. In this way, the length of the day, and thus the fasting period, varies in length from place to place over the years. This is great for those shorter winter days but makes one cringe at the thought of these long, hot, July summer days without sustenance. Every Muslim, no matter where he or she lives, will see an average Ramadan day of approximately 13.5 hours.
After this, the Muslims indulge in iftar – a breaking of the fast dinner. In the tradition of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the iftar usually begins with eating a date – a natural sweetness that doesn’t shock the body’s blood sugar. Why do this you ask? Can’t even fathom the thought of not eating for hours out of a day? Well that is exactly why it is done. Ramadan is a month of remembrance, remembrance of God and the deeds one should be performing year round to come closer to Him, and remembrance of those less fortunate who don’t have the convenience of indulging in food at any given time of the day.
Being the third “pillar,” or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, is the important practice of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one’s spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Muslim holy book – the Qur’an – giving charity and purifying one’s behavior. Muslims think of it as a kind of spiritual tune-up for the soul. But there are as many meanings of Ramadan as there are Muslims.
Come out and hear about them this Saturday, July 28 at the Ninth annual Sharing Ramadan Iftar. Interfaith attendees are free. Members of the Muslim community are $10. Please RSVP by calling the CAIR office at216.830.2247.