Long before Islam was first preached by Mohammad and before his com mission as a Prophet, he was in the habit of retreating to a cave outside Mecca, from time to time. He would spend the time to meditate and reflect in solitude. It was during Ramadan that ohammad received his first revelation proclaiming: “Read, in the name of thy Lord, Who created human beings, out of a clot. Proclaim. And thy Lord is Most Bountiful.” It is for this reason that Muslims hold Ramadan that high and also for the fact that fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islamic religion.

Fasting became obligatory in the second year after Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina (both cities are in what is now called Saudi Arabia), 624 years after the birth of Jesus. Fasting is to last for an entire month, but only during daylight hours. It starts by the dawn and ends by the sunset of every day. Fasting requires abstention from food, drink and any sensual acts.

Abstention from food and drink makes Muslims sympathize with and respond to the needs of all humanity. Fasting also builds a sense of self-control and will power, which can be beneficial throughout life in dealing with temptation and peer-pressure. It offers a time for Muslims to “purify” their bodies as well as their souls, by developing a greater sense of humanity, spirituality and community. Ramadan is a very spiritual time for Muslims, and often they invite each other to one another’s home to break the fast and pray together. A greater sense of generality and forgiveness is also a characteristic of this time, when meals are shared with fellow neighbors.

For many Muslims, the fast of Ramadan is the most scrupulously observed of all religious duties. Everyone must fast except children, the sick and aged, pregnant women and those undergoing the heavy burden of travel.

During the month of fasting, the meal schedule has to be adjusted providing a pre-dawn light meal and a post-sunset breakfast meal. Muslims prefer to begin the breakfast meal with dates. At the end of the month, a small charity may be given away to the poor (as alms) on behalf of each Muslim soul.

At Georgetown University, Muslims started celebrating the Holy month of Ramadan on Oct. 27, and will mark the ending of the month of Ramadan with Eid-Ul-Fitr, the three-days festival of fast breaking. Because the celebration is based on the lunar calendar, the approximate ending date for Ramadan is Nov 25. Eid-Ul-Fitr is a festival of thanksgiving and rejoicing.

Muslims students, staff and faculty may request release from classroom or work each day at least a half hour before sunset in order to prepare for Iftar (fast breaking meal) and for the sunset prayer. Let’s unite in the celebration of Muslim heritage.

Imam Yahya Hendi is the university’s Muslim Chaplain at the Office of Campus Ministry.

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