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Ramadan is a time for Muslims to fast and reflect

By Kimberly Abu-Shanab


August 22, 2009

Ramadan is here again.

For those who are unfamiliar, Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar in which the revelation of the Holy Qur'an began to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Ramadan is observed by fasting from dawn to sunset every day of the lunar month of Ramadan. Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn until dusk. Smoking, profanity, lying and other vices also invalidate the fast.

Why fast the month of Ramadan? The simple answer is that God instructed us to fast in the Qur'an. In chapter 2:183 Allah says: "Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may (learn) self-control." The purpose is to worship God by obedience, and the result, hopefully, is to draw closer to God.

How does one draw closer to God by fasting? By drawing closer to his fellow man by being reminded of the hunger that so many experience daily and responding to that need. Reminded by their own hunger pangs through fasting, the Muslims gain empathy for those around them who are less fortunate.

Empathy turns to action as the Muslim gives to charities throughout the month (and beyond) and culminates in the required act of giving the Zakaat al Fitr, or the purifying charity of breaking the fast.

According to the Bread for the World organization, roughly 1.02 billion people across the world are hungry (4 percent of U.S. households experience hunger). In this economic downturn the numbers are on the rise. A lack of food is not the problem, but rather the distribution. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, stated, "The food for two persons is sufficient for three, and the food of three persons is sufficient for four persons." How true is this today in our world of "super-sized" meals and the obesity epidemic sweeping our nation?

Before Ramadan begins again let us reflect on the progress that we have made or perhaps the ground we may have lost in improving our character. In the past year, we have had many occasions to reach out to our neighbors.

For example, in Middle Tennessee, Muslims joined with other community groups to help tornado victims, area mosques along with the Muslim Boy and Girl Scouts had food drives for Second Harvest Food Bank, and Muslim parents volunteered their time with other parents in classrooms and on sports teams. Let this year be even better.

In our current economy more families than ever are in need. Give to food pantries, work in shelters or donate to the many worthy organizations that distribute food to those in need. Buying extra groceries and putting them in the food drive receptacle at your local grocery store may be the easiest way to contribute.

Whether inspired by Ramadan or by your own religious tradition, let us all as people of faith come together for the benefit of mankind to work toward the goal of eliminating hunger.

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