By Albany Tribune -- (August 18, 2011)
By Imam Abdullah Antepli
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This is the month in which the Holy Quran started to be revealed to prophet Muhammad. So Ramadan marks the historical birth of Islam as the youngest sibling of the Abrahamic family. Ramadan has been primarily a joyful celebration of this birth in prayerful and devotional ways for the last fourteen hundred years by Muslims of all different backgrounds.
All religions carve out specific periods of time to be more intentional and deliberate about their core teachings and ideals. Ramadan is that special time for believing and practicing Muslims when they try their very best to be more intentional and focused about their relationship with the Divine by taking on various physical and spiritual disciplines and by devoting significant amount of quality time to ponder about the state of that relationship.
Every day during this holy month, practicing adult Muslims of good health around the world spend the daylight hours fasting completely. They abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours. It is a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice.
But Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking. Muslims are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance. We are to make peace with those who have wronged us, strengthen ties with family and friends, do away with bad habits – essentially clean up our lives, our thoughts, and our feelings. The Arabic word for “fasting” (sawm) literally means “to refrain” – and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but also from evil actions, thoughts, and words.
So Ramadan is a month of self-auditing. Muslims are expected to slow down and deeply reflect on their lives. They are called to note all the pluses and minuses, weak and strong areas. They are invited to give intense gratitude and thanks to the Divine and their loved ones for those pluses and ask forgiveness and guidance for the minuses from the same sour ces.
During Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from peering at unlawful possibilities. The hand must not touch or take anything wrong. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to improper places. In such a way, every part of the body observes the fast.
Therefore, fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the total commitment of the person’s body and soul to the spirit of the fast. Ramadan is a month long spiritual gym where Muslims work hard on their spiritual muscles. Muslims are called to do this year-round, but Ramadan gives them an opportunity to push these ethical and moral ideals into their bones and instill them in the very tissue of their brains. Ramadan helps Muslims develop these internal and spiritual strengths by forcing them to be more intentional every 11 months.
Ramadan is also a month of charity and empathy.
Through these physical disciplines that we take on, Muslims try to improve their empathy with those who are less privileged than them and with those for whom hunger and starvation is a way of life. This deeper empathy and understanding is expected to increase our motivation and determination to attend the needs of our fellow human beings.
Eid al-Fitr marks the successful completion of month long struggle and internal purification at the end of Ramadan. Muslims often invite their non-Muslim friends to join them and celebrate their spiritual achievements.
And also, following are the special Islamic Dates during Fall-2011:
Ramadan Starts -First day of fasting August 1st, 2011
Ramadan Ends August 29th, 2011
Eid al-Fitr (Celebration of the end of Ramadan) August 30th, 2011
Hajj (Muslim Pilgrimage) days November 4-9th 2011
Eid al-Adha ( Celebration of the Pilgrimage) November 6th, 2011