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Ramadhan: A Blessed Month of Fasting

As-Salaam Alaikum (Peace be Upon You) and Ramadhan Mubarak! (A Blessed Ramadhan)

Saturday, May 26 was for some 1.6 billion people in the world the 10th (or 11th) of Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. How could it have been the 10th or the 11th of the same month at the same time you might ask? The circumference of the Earth, in its vast 360 degrees and 27 various time zones (the International Date Line involves three additional time zones, one for each hour albeit some are 30 to 45 minutes apart), involves a day i.e., 24 hours being a day, or some part of it being earlier for someone on the other side of the world while it is whatever time it is at the very same time wherever you are. Is that amazing to think of as the sun traverses the sky in its set orbit allowing us its light, warmth and the opportunity for a sunny disposition from one time zone to the next? If you can't wrap your head around that so easily, think about New Year's eve and the celebrations that occur in other countries hours before midnight arrives on the East Coast of the US. As we are busy with our bustling daily schedules the day is winding down or the moon is glowing brightly in one place or another in the world and then the next place shortly afterwards. Time and its activity about the Earth passes like a giant wave in a stadium if you can imagine that. As time passes, Muslims, who live in every place on the Earth are making Salat (praying) at a scheduled time at every minute of the day somewhere in the world. Like fasting in Ramadhan, prayer (Salat) is one of the five (5) pillars of the Islamic faith observed by Muslims-- being charitable (paying Zakat; a part of one's income for the benefit of others); making the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) for those who can afford it at least once in one's life time and most importantly, sustaining one's belief in One God and His Messenger (Iman) are the other pillars-- Ramadhan, a month in which observant Muslims fast throughout it's length, is considered a very special and blessed month.

In the Holy Qur'an, the Book of Guidance for all mankind, it states:

"Oh You who Believe! Fasting Is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that haply you may learn self-restraint." (2:183)

"Ramadhan is the month in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgement (Between right and wrong). So everyone of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting. But if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you and perchance ye shall be grateful." (2:185)

Ramadhan is looked forward to by all Muslims for its spiritual rejuvenation, sanctity and rewards. Many view it as a time to revitalize and invoke all of one's being into an improved spiritual practice seeking the pleasure of Allah (swt). The month motivates us to self-evaluate our actions, check our egos and identify weaknesses in character followed by actions by which to better ourselves. Broken into three Ashras, periods of 10 days throughout the month, the first part is a time of Mercy; the middle of the fasting month is a time of Forgiveness and the third part is defined as a period of safety or emancipation from Hell. During the latter part of Ramadhan is a special night each Muslim is to search for called Lait'ul Qadr (The Night of Power). On this night described as “better than a thousand months” (Al Qadr: 3) which is equivalent to eighty-three years and four months, one is to make additional prayers and worship Allah (SWT), remembering Him in dhikr and seeking His bountiful blessings, forgiveness and protection. There is no sure way of knowing on which specific night Lait'ul Qadr is occurring. Muslims are encouraged to seek it in the odd nights of the last ten days i.e., the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or the last night of Ramadhan. For many, every night is treated like Lait'ul Qadr, with some taking themselves to a mosque in which to spend these last ten days and nights. This observance is called Itikaf.

Before the break of dawn, Muslims arise from sleep for an early meal called Suhoor after making their intention the evening before to fast the following day. Until sunset, there will be no partaking of food or drink, intimate relations with ones spouse and acting in any manner that would be displeasing to Allah (God) or violate the fast. Throughout the day one says his/her morning/dawn prayer Fajr; the mid-day (Zuhr) and afternoon (Asr) prayers and reads a Juz (1/30th) of the Qur'an so as to complete its entire reading by the end of the month. At the end of every day of fasting there is a meal in which the fast is broken called an Iftar. An Iftar only occurs during the nights of the month of Ramadhan and typically it is communal i.e., the fast is broken with family, friends, at a mosque or with others to share its blessing. The Iftar follows the evening prayer (Maghrib). After the modest meal the night prayer (Isha) is completed. What is also special and only occurs in Ramadhan is the saying of Tarawih prayers that involves the audible recitation of the same Juz i.e., 1/30th of the Qur'an that everyone is reading (on that day) in a late night prayer (after Isha). These prayers can be said in the mosque or at home. Muslims are unified in the performance of these obligatory acts, and some of which are voluntary, with exceptions for those who are ill, pregnant or traveling who can make up the missed fasts on later days. It wouldn't matter which country one is in, Ramadhan is in full effect. In nations in which strife exists, Muslims are fasting and meeting their obligations to please their Rabb (Lord).

Ramadhan is also festive. The joining with others for congregational prayers, breaking of the fast and spreading good cheer is somewhat infectious. Iftars can be found every evening in every mosque throughout New York City, rather throughout America in which Muslims are in growing numbers, somewhere between 3 to 7 million.

The Annual Ramadhan Community Iftar sponsored by the Office of I. Daneek Miller, the South East Queens Muslim Collective, the Islamic Circle of North America, Team Deuce Sports and the Tauhid Center for Islamic Development among other local Muslim organizations was held this year on May 26th at Rufus King Park in Jamaica, NY. It was a hot day reaching 90 degrees with a little sun in the park. Spirits were high and the feeling of happiness to be together was evident. The theme of this year's Community Iftar was "Showing Compassion Towards One Another."

In such confusing and complicated times as are presently occurring in the US and around the globe, there is some consensus that compassion for others is of great need. Also, that we be patient and tolerant of the needs and lives of others.

Resource booths including ICNA Relief, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), ICNA Helping Hands, New York City Commission on Human Rights, SUNY-Queens Educational Opportunity Center, Get Covered NYC, Darul Uloom NY and the Office of the Mayor lined the sidewalks of the park closest to 89th Avenue. While children played with gifts of balls and bubble blowers, the constant sight of bright yellow smiley face balloons distributed to hundreds of children by the South East Queens Muslim Collective became widespread throughout the park. Community residents, neighbors and park regulars were treated to positive and celebratory remarks brought by a variety of guest speakers introduced by SEQMC Board Member Musaalih Bey. These speakers included Councilman I. Daneek Miller, Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman, representatives of the Mayors Office, Sarah Sayeed from the NYC Office of Immigration Services, Imam Yusuf Ramadan of Masjid Nuriddin, Jessica Douglas from the Queens Borough President's Office, Rasel Rahman and Chris Smith from the NYC Commission on Human Rights Queens Community Center, Muhammad Shahidullah from ITVusa, Khayriyyah Ali, SUNY-Queens Educational Opportunity Center and Sr. Shirley Dye from the Sister Clara Muhammad School joined hundreds of Muslims, children, soccer players and everyday neighbors enjoying the park on this special Saturday in Ramadhan.

Earlier, SEQMC Board President Abdus-Salaam Musa and Board Member Tariq Rahman had welcomed everyone to the Third Annual Ramadan Community Iftar that was organized and coordinated via efforts of SEQMC. Imam Aiyub Abdul Baki, also an SEQMC Board Member, shared observations and comments about the importance and meaning of Ramadhan. Qur'anic recitation was delivered by two Hafiz and the sound of nasheeds (Islamic music) filled the air during the early afternoon hours.

A delicious meal provided by numerous donations was served to everyone promptly when it was time to break fast after which the Maghrib (evening) prayer was led by Imam Hafiz Zaheer Ali from ICNA.

Ramadhan Mubarak (Blessings of Ramadhan), two words that are often spoken when greeting others during the month, was the common greeting of the day! Muslims will continue to fast until the end of the month. At the conclusion of Ramadhan (which is also the start of the month of Shaban, another special month in the Islamic calendar), a feast of celebration called the 'Eid ul Fitr (Feast of Fast Breaking) is held. Everywhere. Like fasting and sharing iftars throughout the entire month of Ramadhan, all Muslims around the world celebrate the completion of Ramadhan with happiness and gratitude for the blessings experienced within the month. The 'Eid last for three (3) days allowing family and friends to come together to share a few days of joy and gratefulness that radiates throughout the Islamic world.

Special thanks go out to all of the local community organizations that participated in the Community Iftar including Masjid Nuriddin, Humanity Services, Muslim Ummah of North America, the Bangladeshi Community of North America, Muslim Women's Institute for Research and Development, New York Muslims United for Civic Engagement, Masjid Al-Hamdulillah, the Office of I. Daneek Miller and the NYC Parks Department. Together, the Iftar was indeed memorable as a day of unity and shared good neighborly caring and sharing among one another. A special thanks to Br. Murshed who has provided the sound for the Annual Community Iftar for the last three years. Jazak Allahu Khayrun (May Allah reward you) to all.

May Allah (swt) be pleased with our obedience, accept our fasting, sacrifice and additional prayers for peace, goodness and an improved life in a world that truly needs the help of Allah (swt) and His guidance.

For more pictures of the Iftar, please see:

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