Understanding Ramadan: It's Not Just About Fasting for a Month

Plenty of Baltimore area residents are observing Ramadan. You might be surprised to learn what it's all about.

For 37 years, since converting to Islam in 1976, Hassan Rasheed of the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore, has fasted during the month of Ramadan.

The holiest month in the Islamic faith began Tuesday for 20 percent of the world's population and will be observed through Aug. 8, 2013.

Many Muslim children will try the fast for the first time this year, and they and others new to the Islamic faith, as well as non-participants, may have some misconceptions regarding Ramadan. 

One common one is that Ramadan is the name of the fast, Rasheed says. In fact, Ramadan is the ninth month on the lunar calendar, when fasting—eating and drinking is prohibited from sunrise to sunset—is practiced.

"The logic for fasting is that if you want to be a believer in G'd you must learn discipline," said Rasheed, who leaves the 'o' out of the word God. "So fasting is to be seen as a prescription from G'd to achieve mastery over yourself. In addition, fasting will help make you sensitive to others who are less fortunate."

Fasting is one of Islam's five pillars—belief, prayer, charity, fasting and the trip to the holy city of Mecca.

"Each year during fasting, I would advise a person to take inventory of themselves, determine a good habit they are missing as well as picking out the most undesirable habit," Rasheed said.

Another misunderstanding people have about Ramadan is that fasting during Ramadan means giving up some pleasures and then returning to them once Ramadan is over.

Fasting during Ramadan should be undertaken to establish good habits for the long term and to eliminate bad habits, Rasheed says.

"Throughout the year for various reasons the human being gets out of shape—as a way of speaking," he says. "Fasting during Ramadan helps the individual return to and strengthen the original nature."

Similarly, Saad Malik, vice president of Islamic Society of Baltimore Youth Group, says that Ramadan is not just a month of starvation, but also an opportunity for growth.

"With fasting, I always look at it as 'charity of the body.' Anyone can give money to others, but when fasting, you can really feel for those less fortunate who do not always have food at the table," Malik said in an email.

Malik, 20, has been fasting during Ramadan since he was 7.

"I remember, at the time, it was the most exciting experience for me. My parents were so proud and the day was all about me as all my favorite foods were prepared for when it was time to break our fasts," Malik says.

Many people also think that nothing is eaten at all during Ramadan.

"That is not true. We are allowed to eat before morning prayer, which is generally a little bit before sunrise, and we are allowed to eat at sunset," Malik says.

But fasting is not the only part of Ramadan.

"During Ramadan, Muslims believe G'd restricts the devil's ability to influence the individual and so to take advantage of this opportunity Muslims are encouraged to spend extra time devoted to activities centered around G'd," Rasheed says.

These activities include reading the Quran, paying extra attention to making the five prayers as well as making extra prayers and going to the Mosque more often to pray in congregation.

Another activity includes Taraweeh, a prayer offered every night of Ramadan at the Masjid, or prayer center, Malik says.

However, other activities that distract from Islam during Ramadan are not practiced.

"Throughout Ramadan, everyone definitely is very focused," Malik says. "Sports are often avoided since water is not available to drink and it could make the fast a bit difficult."

ISB Youth Group treasurer Mohsin Majid says physical activity—and characteristics such as anger, backbiting and egoism—should be avoided.

Nevertheless, Malik says he loves fasting and taking part in Ramadan.

"It may sound crazy to an outsider, thinking how could fasting for a whole day in the heat be fun, but it ends up doing so much for me individually," he says.

With dinners to break fasts and gatherings at local Mosques, Ramadan creates a sense of unity.

"Contrary to what people believe, fasting and Ramadan as a whole is an enjoyable experience for Muslims," Malik says.

>>>Read more tips about Ramadan from Rasheed and Majid.

Those in association with Imam W. Deen Mohammed's Leadership use G'd because they believe no reference to the Creator should be able to be spelled in another way and come up with dog.
CP July 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM
That's fine you can censor my comment. But how can you as a women Sonia support a "religion" that treats women like 3rd class citizens, apathetic to extremism and violence?
Sonia Su July 12, 2013 at 01:44 PM
I'm sorry, but I did not say anywhere in the article that I supported anything. I reported on Ramadan with locals who participate in it.
Kathy July 15, 2013 at 07:22 PM
Muslims do not have a religious monopoly on treating women badly or engaging in extremism and violence.


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