Op-Ed: Ramadan is more than fasting

Thursday at sunset signified the start of Ramadan. During this month, observing Muslims around the world fast by abstaining from food and drink from dawn 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 fasting in 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, Muslims are expected to control their tempers, be more charitable, and seek a closer connection with the Creator through additional prayer and reading of the Koran. Moreover, in this month, a fasting person gains more understanding and compassion toward those who face hunger due to their unfortunate circumstances. The central theme of Ramadan is not hunger or thirst, but is a boot camp of the human spirit. Muslims practice the fact that people can choose to not be slaves to biological impulses. It is a time to renew our unique human qualities by making an extra effort to do good deeds.

The Prophet Muhammad 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 a fast.'”

The Prophet 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 lunar 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, even during the dog days of August.

So this week, to honor your valued friendships with Muslims, congratulate them by saying “Ramadan Mubarak.” To show support for your Muslim friends and colleagues during this month, simply be aware of their fast until Aug. 19, the last day of Ramadan. 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 mutual understanding and friendship among different faiths.

To celebrate this month with the members of the local faith community, the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge is holding its sixth annual Ramadan Interfaith Potluck Dinner on Friday, July 27, at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. All are welcome to attend. Please RSVP to info@iclcf.org by July 24.

LEVENT AKBARUT can be reached at akbarut@yahoo.com.

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