By Hakim Abdul-Ali
The world’s almost two billion adherents of the Islamic faith began their annual month-long fasting period today. It’s the time of the year when sincere Muslims fast from dawn to sunset each day,abstaining from food, water and having sex with their spouses during the daily fasting period and also performing extra night prayers.
Ramadan is the ninth calendar month of the twelve month lunar Islamic calendar which has approximately 354 days. It was during this month when the first part of the Muslim’s holy book, The Holy Qur’an, was initially revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) more than 1439 years ago.
All male and female Muslims who are able to fast anxiously await this disciplined occasion as it is a commandment from Allah to do so as is stated in the Holy Qur’an, Chapter 2, verse 185. This verse states, “The month of Ramadan (is the month) in which the Qur’an has been sent down as guidance for mankind containing clear signs which lead (to the straight path) and distinguishing the truth from falsehood.”
There are distinct and specific rules of conduct that are emphasized during Ramadan’s fasting process which enhances a Muslim’s sense of spiritual commitment to Allah and to all of creation. It’s an empowering discipline of the highest spiritual order that only gets better with each passing day during the month of Ramadan.
It’s been said that Islam is the second largest religion in America after Christianity, and the numbers seem to increase by leaps and bounds everywhere as more and more people accept Islam as their religious path. An oftentimes key, forgotten and omitted point that’s worth mentioning in recalling factual American History is that there almost one of every four enslaved Afrikans who were brought to the shores of the United States, South America and the Caribbean were of the Islamic faith.
The importance of Ramadan lingers loudly and profoundly in the hearts, minds and souls of today’s global Muslims. From the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia, e.g., and to the far-off diverse lands like Indonesia, Palestine and Russia, Islam is vibrantly prominent and steadily growing as it faces the demanding times of modernity.
Brothers and sisters of Islam equally rush to the exacting challenges of Ramadan’s calling, but in so many instances, the women, who are the pearls of the faith, are delighted to accept the fasting call, just like the men do, in order to expand their greater spiritual growth. These sisters in faith play very important roles in the overall global Islamic communities’ outlooks in fulfilling their religious duties, including fasting during Ramadan, if possible.
I spoke to several Muslim sisters about Ramadan and one Muslim sister, Hajjar Hadidah Osman, born in Singapore, now living in Ontario, Canada, related to me that she and her husband, Hajji Salim Abdus-Salaam, couldn’t wait for the fasting month to begin. An ethnic Malay, this sister informed me that “Ramadan for me is a month of detoxification-physically, mentally and spiritually. This is the time for me to put aside the worldly demands and recharge my religious faith.”
Sister Hadidah enthusiastically offered that “It (fasting) unites Muslims from different backgrounds and brings us closer to Allah by doing the Ramadan activities organized by the mosque. I always look forward to and welcome the blessed month of Ramadan.” She and her Afro-American husband, who’s originally from New Jersey, are very active in their Canadian mosque and community.
An Afrikan-American sister, Pamela Gore, wife of Al-Hajj William Gore, living in Charleston, South Carolina, told me that “Fasting during Ramadan is a duty we owe to Allah, that we do seeking His pleasure, His mercy and the blessings that He has placed in it.”
Continuing, Sister Pamela added, “This pillar of our faith helps to prepare us for Allah’s tests by training and restraining the self and its appetites, opening the way for greater patience, perseverance, compassion, discipline, gratitude and forever being mindful of Him and His guidance.” The thoughts of this sister speaks volumes to all awaken spiritual believers seeking closeness to the Creator.
The sisters in Islam everywhere are vital cogs in the Islamic familial and community infrastructures and they play instrumental roles in the total Islamic landscape both here and abroad. For them the fasting month is a much anticipated event that draws them, their families and other believers closer to the Creator in mutual prayer and respect for what fasting during Ramadan really entails.
Sister Aysel Dunli from Nevshehir, Turkey, who’s been living in America for almost two years, told me that she, her husband, Recep Dunli, and their three children embrace Ramadan because it’s so uniquely special. “It’s a gift from Allah, and it brings all the Muslim brothers and sisters of true faith and their families from everywhere together in prayerful obedience to what Allah has requested.”
When interviewing this sister, and with her husband as translator, I could tell that Ramadan has a far reaching discernment impact in her spiritual mindset. Sister Aysel also emphasized the importance of reading the entire Holy Qur’an during the thirty day fasting period because so many things are revealed then that may not normally be clearly understood during other times of the year.
It’s to be noted that a unique feature of fasting during Ramadan is the special late night extra prayers in the mosque called “Tarawih.” Attending these prayers represents a devotional gathering juncture for Muslims to demonstrate greater spiritual alertness, along with a renewed appreciative solidarity for what mercies and bounties that Allah has granted them.
Things like bad deeds and profane speech are not accepted during Ramadan. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Fasting is not abstaining from eating and drinking only, but also from vain speech and foul language.” Also, Muslims are encouraged to and should strive to perform as many acts of worship as possible including during the last ten days of Ramadan.
Muslim women throughout the world are heiresses to the dynamic legacies of the past and present noble Muslim sisters who’ve defended the faith of Islam to the highest, just like many righteous male believers have in the past and still do to this very moment.
Observing the liberating fast of Ramadan, as a spiritually structured authorization in obeying Allah’s command, is what all true believers in Islam are challenged and obligated to do.
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an in Chapter 2, verse 184, “And it is better for you that you fast, if you only knew.” Obviously, Sisters Hadidah, Pamela and Aysel know the value of fasting during Ramadan, just as so many of the hundreds of millions of worldwide believers in Islam know also as they too embrace the powers of this sacred fasting month’s disciplined enhancement.
To all of the sincere fasting believers in true Al-Islam, I extend the greeting of Ramadan Karim (May Ramadan be generous to you). Pray for peace and unite with the fasting believers in making this a better world to live in. Embrace Ramadan. For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”