Area Muslims observe the month of Ramadan
MONA SHADIA, STAFF WRITER
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Members of the Islamic Society of Corona/Norco, along with Muslims around the world, are observing the month of Ramadan.
More than 1.4 billion Muslims from around the world observe Ramadan every year and among them are those who are observing it for the first time.
"Fasting is not a unique thing for Muslims, God said it was prescribed on you as it was prescribed on others before you," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California Council on American Islamic Relations.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim Calendar. It is believed that during the month of Ramadan, the revelation of the Quran began from God to the prophet Muhammed through the angel, Gabriel. Muslims fast for the entire month from sunrise to sunset and celebrate at the end of the month.
During the Ramadan fast, Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink and are also to restraint from other human pleasures during the day including sexual relations.
The purpose is to allow Muslims to concentrate on their relationship with God, said Ayloush.
Telling a lie, committing slander, making a false oath, denouncing anyone or being greedy will break the fast. All of these characteristics are not allowed at anytime but during Ramadan, committing it will break the fast.
During Ramadan, Muslims concentrate on their relationship with their creator and although Islam teaches Muslims to always have a close relationship with God, Ramadan helps Muslims devote even more time to strengthen the relationship they have with God, allowing them to get even closer, achieving a clear mind and concentrate on being spiritual, said Ayloush.
According to the Quran, those who are ill, traveling or find it difficult to fast, such as elderly men or women are allowed to break their fast. But the individual must feed a poor person for each of the days he or she could not fast.
Muslims break the fast at sunset. It is called Iftar, Arabic for breaking the fast. And traditionally, Iftar is done after praying. Muslim families, friends, neighbors and communities traditionally join together and break their fast. Mosques also serve Iftar for those who are on a journey or for anyone else, Muslim or non-Muslim.
The ISCN will be serving Iftar every Sunday evening during Ramadan for the local communities of Muslims and non-Muslims. On Oct. 15, the center will be hosting Iftar for the city officials, Corona-Norco Interfaith Association members, churches, neighbors, community members and all those who want to join in breaking bread together, said Ahsan Baseer, ISCN president.
Ramadan serves as a way to teach Muslims to be self-restrained. The idea is that if an individual can learn to control his or her physical needs, then he or she is more likely to control other needs, said Ayloush.
Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam, he said. The first is to declare that there is no deity but God and Muhammed is a messenger of God, the second is the prayer, the third is the "Zakat," charity and the fifth is the pilgrimage. Muslims are continuously engaging in peaceful activities, recharged spiritually and are reminded to be peaceful human beings who are in constant communication and connection with God, said Ayloush.
Ayloush said, Ramadan serves as an even bigger reminder and a spiritual connection with God. During Ramadan, Muslims spend hours upon hours of praying and reading the Quran.
Ayloush compared praying and Ramadan to the jobs many have. He said during the work day, employees conduct their work and repeating it gets them skillful at what they do. For Muslims, praying works the same way, he said. As Muslims pray throughout the day, they become more skillful in their connection with God. Ayloush said some employees get yearly training, which helps them stay up to date expanding more on their skills and knowledge. He described Ramadan as a yearly training for Muslims to become spiritually connected with God on an even deeper level.
Traditionally children are taught to fast until they gradually are capable of fasting the whole day. Ayloush's son Omar said he is able to fast the whole month of Ramadan. Omar said he learned after gradually fasting until noon, then fasting an additional hour every day. The 12-year-old said he initially thought it was impossible to fast, but now that he does it, he said he is proud and knows that God will reward him. Omar said he always remembers God, but he remembers him even more in Ramadan. Omar said he remembers all the privileges given to him by God -- the good family, the good health, the good life and the good home he has and he thanks God for it.
Ayloush's daughter, Marya, said she also gradually learned to fast. The 10-year-old said Ramadan brings her family together. They all break their fast at the same time, on the same table. Marya said she thinks of all the people who have so little and she prays for them to get what they need, especially the children, she said.
And for those who are practicing for the first time, the experience might be different.
Alvis Howard is a new Muslim who is practicing Ramadan for the first time. He said fasting helps him spend the time reflecting on what God has given him and his purpose in life.
"For me, it gets me into a better mental state," Howard said. "It allows me to be in tune spiritually and just puts me in a peace and a common state, just to be a better person."
After all, for Muslims, fasting is the least important part of what it is to practice the month of Ramadan, said Ayloush.
"The important part of Ramadan is to teach Muslims to be mindful of God," he said. "The food is the means to the more important goal of Ramadan, which is the consciousness of God in every aspect of our lives. It's just the training part to achieve what is called the mind and soul over matter."
- Mona Shadia, can be reached at (909) 483-8541 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.