by Hiba Mukhtar-Ansari
It is that time of year again. Starting May 15th, nearly 14 million Muslim-Americans will welcome the special month of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The religious tradition of fasting has a long, rich history, along with variations in many other faiths.
Eating a very early, nutritious breakfast before dawn, Muslims will then refrain from drinking any water or eating any other food until sunset. But it is not just food and drink that Muslims will avoid, but also ill speech, bad habits, and other poor behaviors.
In the religion of Islam, fasting is meant to be training not only for the stomach, but also one’s character and whole being. The month of Ramadan is one big boot camp to encourage sincerity, perseverance, rejuvenation, and extra prayers. Fasting is worship; and the ultimate purpose of fasting is to come closer to the Creator, along with the promise of receiving numerous blessings, forgiveness of sins, and the reward of Paradise.
What makes the month of Ramadan even more special is that all good deeds and actions are multiplied in the sight of God. Smiling at your neighbor is like smiling at 70 neighbors. This is a major reason for an outpour of charitable giving during the month of Ramadan, encouraging peace-making and justice in a world where basic necessities such as clean water and daily meals go amiss in homes very far and near.
The month of Ramadan culminates with one of the two annual Islamic holidays, called Eid–ul-Fitr, or Celebration of Fasting. At the start of Ramadan, our local Muslims will gather in their affiliated masjids in their best clothes for worship, with lots of delicious foods and enjoy socializing. After all, a month of fasting is no easy feat and deserves celebration! So within the next 30 days, if your Muslim friend or colleague skips your lunch invitation or declines your summer lemonade, now you know why!