The beginning of October floods minds with images of multi-colored fall leaves, Halloween décor and festivities, and students pouring over open books as midterms approach. However, for those of the Islamic faith, this particular month holds a deeper meaning.
October is the month of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year in accordance to the Islamic lunar calendar, which begins with the first glimpse of the crescent moon and continues for 29 to 30 days. This year, celebrations launched on Oct. 5 and are predicted to last until Nov. 4 or 5.
Muslims celebrate Ramadan for one month’s time by fasting, completely abstaining from food and drink until sunset; showing compassion to others through charitable donations; and refraining from immoral behavior, such as lying and wishing harm upon others.
“Ramadan is the month of blessing of Allah,” Imam Ali Siddiqui, a hospital chaplain in Southern California and practicing Muslim, said. “It is summed up by Prophet Muhammad in one of his sayings: ‘A great month whose beginning is forgiveness, the middle is mercy and the end is liberation from hellfire.’”
According to Islamic faith, Ramadan is celebrated because it was during this month, in roughly 610 A.D., that Angel Gabriel revealed the primary verses of what would eventually become the Quran, the Muslim equivalent to the Holy Bible, to Muhammad, the chosen one.
“[The] Quran was revealed during the month of Ramadan as criterion between right and wrong and a guidance for human beings,” Siddiqui said.
“Prophet Muhammad translated the Quran into his life and left a shiny example for the world to follow. Ramadan is the remembrance of this fact and it brings us closer to the message and the messenger.”
In celebration of Ramadan, participating Muslims arise at 4 a.m. for prayer and Sahoor, a pre-sunrise meal before fasting begins. While awaiting the time of the morning prayer, they generally read from the Quran.
?Muslims are expected to honor the traditions of Ramadan throughout the day’s events. The fast ends in a familial setting with a meal referred to as Iftar, which typically begins with the consumption of dates and water and is meant to restore energy in the body.
All healthy and of-age Muslims are duty-bound by religion to fast during the month of Ramadan. Those celebrating Ramadan reach a heightened sense of spiritual awareness and seemingly achieve oneness with God.
“[You not only] physically restrain yourself from drinking and eating, you also make a conscious effort not to do anything bad,” ULV student Rida Fatima said.
Muslims fast to increase self-control, to express devotion to God, to cleanse the body, mind and soul of impurities, and to experience the hard-knock world of the poor, starving and unwell.
“[Fasting] symbolizes total worship of Allah, our creator,” Siddiqui said. “ It makes us realize that we are sustained by Allah and not by the food or water we consume. We become free in the true sense of the word and true followers of Allah.”
“Those who observe the Fast become fully aware of the plight of the poor and hungry,” Siddiqui added. “It results in action to eliminate poverty and hunger.”
Shane Maroufkhani, a UC Riverside alumnus and a former practicing Muslim, described the celebration of Ramadan as the ultimate act of devotion to God.
“True Islam is nothing but worship to God,” Maroufkhani said. “The whole point of Ramadan is empathy for the poor and starving. That is why [Muslims] fast; to feel what the poor feel.”
“Ramadan really makes you think about others [since you are] no longer concerned with hunger,” Fatima added.
In the true spirit of Ramadan, Fatima said her family donated money to several less fortunate families in Pakistan last year and that they planned to donate money to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort during this month’s celebration.
Prayer is also a major element of Ramadan, as Muslims are obligated to recite the five daily prayers of the Islamic Pillars of Faith, as well as several others throughout the day.
Although the ULV campus chapel does not offer regularly scheduled services for Muslim students participating in Ramadan, it accommodates the needs of these students by making its Peace Loft available for praying.
“Campus ministry is committed to supporting the various faith traditions on campus,” Roberts said.
At the conclusion of Ramadan, Muslims take part in a three-day celebration of their achievements called Id-al-Fitr. In the midst of the festivities, adult Muslims reward their children with gifts or money.
Although the immediate benefits the event reaps seemingly provide enough motivation to participate in the celebration, Siddiqui said Ramadan’s biggest reward was a sense of emotional fulfillment and connectivity to God.
“For those who Fast, Allah has reserved a special gate to enter into Paradise,” Siddiqui said. “Additionally, the reward is self-improvement and improved health. It makes us stronger and strengthens the bond in the family and between members of the community.”
Jessica Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.