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Diversity and Difference

Diversity and Difference

The Office of Multicultural Affairs
recognizes the month of Ramadan

RamadanRamadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Islam uses a lunar calendar-that is, each month begins with the sighting of the new moon.

Because the lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar used elsewhere, Islamic holidays "move" each year. In 2010, Ramadan begins at sundown on August 10.

For more than a billion Muslims around the world-including some 8 million in North America-Ramadan is a "month of blessing" marked by prayer, fasting, and charity.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking starting from dawn till dusk. To prepare for the fasting, Muslims wake up before dawn and the fajr prayer to eat a meal (Sahoor). Muslims break their fast at Maghrib (at sunset) prayer time with a meal called Iftar. Muslims may continue to eat and drink after the sun has set until the next morning's fajr prayer call. Ramadan is a time of reflecting , believing and worshiping God. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual activities during fasting hours are also forbidden. Purity of both thoughts and actions is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised awareness of closeness to God.

The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also teaches Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity (Zakat ).

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Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, this consists of refraining from any foods, drinks, smoking, and marital intimacy. The concept carries further towards cleansing oneself from bad habits and behaviors. The abstinence from food and drink clears the pathway for spiritual growth, which is a journey one starts with by simple things like reading the Quran and doing good deeds, adds further by practicing the added prayers in mosques after the fifth prayer, and continues by keeping up night prayers in the last third of the night when everybody is asleep. This last item develops into an added extended prayer in the last ten days of Ramadan. This becomes a pattern of trying to entertain good deeds and fasting (training self control) with a live conscience during the day, while during the night investing further into actual spiritual growth through prayer and Quran reading. There is strong encouragement to feel for the poor and give alms during Ramadan, and many families make sure they feed the poor through mosques or participate in preparing boxes of elementary food that last the poor throughout the month of Ramadan. Many people practice Ramadan promising themselves that the good habits gained during this month need to be fulfilled throughout the year as a challenge to personal empowerment. For me, when I fast I find myself less needy to nibble and eat on a regular basis, I am more at will to control what I eat, I feel better and healthier, I feel a spiritual growth that I am working at, and I try to be more in control of having only pure thoughts and feeling for and giving those that are less privileged than myself.

Being away from family at this time saddens me especially since Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitur is a very festive time to the Muslims. There are alot of family gatherings, during this time, and people usually break their fast together. Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated through exchanging presents or money, giving food for the poor (zakat il Fitr), and through many visits to family and friends. While in Boston, especially when needing to be in class or at my internship site, I find myself needing a cup of coffee but as the days pass by I become more able to do without it. Also, because the day is long, I feel hungry but that wears off and gives me the satisfaction of self control. All these feelings dissipate as the second third of the month of Ramadan approaches; it becomes a routine and a style I am accustomed to.

—Noor Amawi

Updated 9/20/10

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