Muslims worldwide began a month of fasting and spiritual reflection Saturday.
During Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. After sunset each day, they break the fast – usually with friends and loved ones – in a ritual called Iftar.
At the University, Muslim students will gather weekday evenings in Coffman Union to dine and celebrate.
Ramadan is about “coming closer to one’s spiritual self and overcoming the body’s desire of satisfaction,” said Mariam Hannon, a University junior and Muslim.
In addition to consuming no food or drink – including water – during the fasting hours, Muslims can not engage in smoking or sexual relations, Hannon said.
“It might be difficult the first couple of days, but then it becomes part of your life and enjoyable,” she said.
Chemical engineering graduate student Sahban Ozair said Ramadan is more than just abstaining from food, water and sex – it’s about developing a closer relationship with God.
“Once you are fasting, your mind is more tuned to the things around you that you usually neglect and you start appreciating the beauty of God’s creation,” Ozair said.
Muslims also try harder to do good deeds, pray more and avoid things such as lying or losing their temper during the month, he said.
“It really brings out the best in you,” Ozair said.
Political science and sociology junior Muneer Karcher-Ramos said learning to appreciate what one has been given is also an important part of the fast.
“Life is just temporary; we don’t know if we are going to make it to tomorrow, so we have to appreciate what we have now,” Karcher-Ramos said. “We focus more on ourselves and our relationship with God than on the worldly things.”
Part of the reason Muslims fast is to empathize with those who don’t get enough to eat.
“(Fasting) reminds us of the blessings we were given and of the brothers and sisters around the world who are starving,” Hannon said.
There often are food drives and charity fundraisers during the month to help raise money for the needy.
The Al-Madinah Cultural Center is holding a Fast-A-Thon on Oct. 12 to raise money for the Second Harvest charity organization.
For every person who pledges to fast for the day, local businesses will donate to the charity, which fights to end hunger, Ozair said.
At the end of the day, everyone who fasts will be invited to a meal where they can talk about their experiences, he said.
“It’s for a good cause and it raises hunger awareness by showing people what hungry people have to go through,” Ozair said.