Ramadan is more than just fasting for Muslims. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar as it marks the month that the Quran, the Islamic holy book, was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Those who observe Ramadan will fast from sunrise to sunset for 29 to 30 days. This year, it began on May 6 and will end on June 3 or 4.
Every year, the beginning of Ramadan shifts back 10 to 11 days, based on the Islamic calendar. Eqbal Rasheed, of the Islamic Center of the Five Towns in Hewlett, noted that Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new moon during the ninth month.
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, known as Saum. During Ramadan, fasting occurs from dawn to sunset. Some exceptions are made for children, the sick and the elderly. Rasheed noted that fasting begins at a young age. “A Muslim begins fasting and practicing the Five Pillars around the time they hit puberty,” he said.
Tanvir Ahmad, president of the Islamic Center, said that that for him, his body gets used to fasting relatively quick. “Usually after a day or two, my body gets used to it,” he said. “For me, having a mental understanding that I will be fasting for a long period of time helps me adjust better.”
Ahmad also pointed out that Ramadan serves as a way for individuals to “cleanse” themselves. “The duration of Ramadan helps absolve us of the sins that we commit during the other 11 months,” he said. “It allows us to beautify ourselves and become more pious.”
Gohar Ayub also attends the center and said that Ramadan also serves as a time to recite the Quran. “As everyone knows, the Quran is over 6,000 pages long and Ramadan serves as a great time to recite it,” Ayub said. “The Quran was revealed to Muhammad during Ramadan so it is important to read it.”
Akin to Christianity and Judaism, charity is an important part of Islam. Known as Zakat, it is also one of the Five Pillars of Islam and it implies that Muslims should share 2.5 percent of their wealth with those who are less fortunate. Ayub pointed out that fasting during Ramadan helps provide people perspective on the plight of those less fortunate. “The fasting from sunrise to sunset each day during Ramadan help us understand what the poor go through,” he said. “It makes us realize why it’s important to give to charity.”
The festival of Eid-al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. Ayub noted that a celebration will take place at the Masjid Hamza mosque in Valley Stream that members of the Five Towns center will more than likely attend. “Eid-al-Fitr is supposed to be a big gathering with friends and family to signify the end of Ramadan,” he said. “The gathering at Masjid Hamza for Eid-al-Fitr represents that we are all together and united.”
The Islamic Center of the Five Towns is at 437 Hamilton Ave. in Hewlett. For more information, go to www.icftli.com.