To the Editor:
It’s that time of year again – Ramadan! On July 19, millions of Muslims around the globe celebrated the start of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Hijri (Islamic lunar) calendar. While the nightly prayers began on Thursday evening, the actual fasting of Ramadan began on Thursday morning immediately after dawn.
Ramadan is celebrated in several ways. Due to its Islamic and historic significance, good deeds are magnified in their worth, hence further encouraging Muslims to observe spiritual, courteous behavior, such as offering increased prayers and charity and visiting family members. However, sins too are amplified in their consequence to the effect of further discouraging sinful activity, such as disobedience to parents, speaking ill of others, and inflicting harm on another.
Consequently, observers practice dawn-to-sunset fasting, during which they refrain from eating, drinking, hostile activity, and sexual conduct in an attempt to increase spiritual intimacy with Allah (God). Observers may additionally attend night prayers offered in mosques, during with the Quran in its entirety is read over the course of the month. Because Ramadan commemorates the beginning of the Quran’s revelation to Prophet Muhammad, Muslims are also encouraged to engage in extra readings of the Quran, completing it at least once by the end of Ramadan.
The benefits of Islamic fasting are many. First and foremost, fasting gives one the virtue of self-discipline and obedience to Allah. It also instills in the observer compassion for the poor and hungry, who fast daily because they have no other choice. Islamic fasting also cleanses the digestive system, lowers blood sugar and pressure, regulates metabolism, and recuperates the body’s capability to assimilate proteins, fats, carbohydrates, starches, sugars, minerals, vitamins and several other essential nutrients.
However, because fasting may risk the health of those suffering lifetime medical illnesses (such as diabetes), they are excused from observing the fast and are instead obligated to feed one poor person for every day not fasted. If one is suffering of an ephemeral illness, such as the flu, he or she is temporarily excused of fasting but must fast the days he or she missed later when in good health. Travelers and women on their monthly or post-pregnancy menstruation period are also temporarily excused but must also later fast the days missed.
For more information on Ramadan and the Islamic faith, visit www.whyislam.org. Thank you!