FROM READERS: MU medical student counts down to Ramadan

Saturday, July 26, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
The Islamic Center of Central Missouri, established in 1983, is home to a diverse and dynamic community composed of indigenous Muslims, international students and immigrants. The center hosts guest lecturers and events to encourage community involvement and diversity.

Nabihah Maqbool is a medical student at the MU School of Medicine and a member of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri. She wrote this post for Columbia Faith & Values, where it originally published on June 27.

Muslims in Columbia will be celebrating Eid Ul Fitr, the holiday of the end of the fast, on Monday to commemorate the end of Ramadan. Here is one piece about the anticipation that comes with the observance of the holy month for Muslims:

History of Ramadan

Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, 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 any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.

Ramadan began on June 24 and will conclude Saturday evening.

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It is related that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, would pray the six months before Ramadan to ask God to grant them enough life to reach the holy month. For millions of Muslims, Ramadan is the highlight of the year. This is the time in which people amass good deeds, become closer to their family and community, and spend time in closeness to God. I know of families so excited for this time they buy gifts for each other one month in advance of Eid ul Fitr, the holiday Muslims celebrate marking the end of the fast.

Ramadan is days away, but I’m nervous, and scared.

My daily routines, a morning run leading to a midday coffee blending into afternoon snack, will soon be gone, as well as the loose semblance of plans I called a schedule. The same hours of my summer will pass but with a different pattern, one of numbers. Each day of this Midwest summer will become 17 hours of abstaining from food and drink, breaking the fast at sunset after 8 p.m., a small snack just before 4 in the morning to prepare for the next 17 hours. I will stand in optional prayers for 90 minutes each night, I will flip my nights into waking hours, and I will ready myself for the intensity of the last ten nights of worship. First, I wait for the start of the month as declared by the traditional sighting of the new moon.

Fasting is a practice that is literally practiced. The Sunnah, or tradition of the Prophet, is to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. The fast of Prophet David is a fast every other day. In addition to these voluntary fasts there are selected holy days people choose to fast during, not that people require any particular reason to partake in this act of worship. Ideally, a Muslim prepares himself for this Ramadan all year long; I am woefully unprepared.

This year will be the lengthiest days of consecutive fasting I will experience in my life. The Islamic calendar is based on a lunar cycle, so each year is ten days less the Gregorian calendar, shifting each of the twelve months, including Ramadan, ten days earlier into each season. This year’s Ramadan for the northern hemisphere is one week after the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

During the first year I decided to partake in the Islamic fast when in middle school, the sacred month coincided with the winter and blessedly short days. And while I do not risk exhaustion or dehydration as many others may, the looming long days still leave me intimidated.

I know this month is one of blessings unfathomable. Any action done with a good intention is rewarded by God as if it were obligatory, and any obligatory action counts for 10 to 700 times its normal reward. Ramadan is known as the month of the Quran, in which Muslims believe the holy word of God was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. Muslims attempt to focus on the meaning, the retention and connection to the holy words these days and nights. Ramadan is the ideal time in which to do this, for fasting is the removal of worldly concerns to focus on spiritual elements. This act of obedience to God, to forgo eating during daytime and avoid sins, clears one for more important matters of the heart.

I’m nervous, because my fasts are not just from daytime gastric contents. This Ramadan, as in others, I will attempt to fast from daily distractions: World Cup results, TV in the evening to unwind, articles and books I read while procrastinating. In this past year, I have felt my mind so cluttered I had barely space to make in it for God. I can sense the loss of focus I have had in my prayer, rigor in accounting for my actions, my laxness in struggling to do good and in making use of my time. And while others may have New Years resolutions, I pray to God that this will be a time for me to regain focus on what is important.

The companions of the prophet would pray for six months after Ramadan to ask God to accept their deeds. Many years after my first Ramadan, I can feel the weightiness and scarcity of time during this month. Just thirty days to cleanse my body and my psyche, and pray that the effects on my soul remain after the month departs. It is said that the loser is he who is no better after the month has ended. For me, this year Ramadan could not arrive sooner.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.

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