Holiest time for Muslims starts today

Observing Ramadan entails fasting
and philanthropy.
Monday, October 27, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:27 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

For the next 30 days, Muslims will remind themselves of the importance of patience, self-discipline and helping the less fortunate. Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for followers of Islam, begins today.

Ramadan requires able Muslims to fast from dawn to sunset and abstain from smoking and sexual relations.

“Ramadan for me is an opportunity in which I can exercise my commitment to Almighty God and to my fellow human being,” said Shakir Hamoobi of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri. “While we are giving up our food and drink and other desires, we hope that this will give us an opportunity to remember others who do not find enough food, drink and clothing — a Muslim should extend his hand of mercy to those less fortunate people.”

By participating in Ramadan, Hamoobi said Muslims learn how to be better citizens and how to use their time more efficiently to serve others. It is hoped that at the end of Ramadan, Muslims can continue to exercise patience during the rest of the year, Hamoobi said.

For MU sophomore Rehab El-Buri, Ramadan is a time to look inward and focus on her life. On a physical level, she refrains from food and drink during the day but on a deeper level, she refrains from actions that might include gossiping or telling white lies.

“What you walk away with at the end of the month is a more disciplined self,” El-Buri said. “It makes you more aware of your actions and, in turn, makes you a better person for the rest of the year.”

It is believed that on the Night of Power, most commonly accepted as the 27th day of Ramadan, Allah revealed the Quran, the Islamic holy book, to the prophet Muhammad in the seventh century. Over the next 23 years, Allah slowly revealed the remainder of the Quran to Muhammad.

Fasting during Ramadan is an obligation for only able Muslims. Children and weak or sick individuals are excused. Hamoobi said children are not required to fast until puberty, but most children want to begin fasting by age 6 or 7.

After sunset the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called iftar. Each night Muslims voluntarily go to mosque, pray for about an hour and recite a portion of the Quran. Over 30 days, they will recite the entire book.

Ramadan ends with a three-day celebration in which gifts are exchanged, and friends and family gather to pray and eat large meals.

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