World’s Muslims pray, fast during Ramadan holy month

by Elizabeth Putnam

Taqee Khaled plans on waking up before sunrise Friday to eat breakfast. It will be his first and last meal until the sun goes down.

Returning to bed to take a nap before his first class, Khaled will read from the Quran and say a Muslim sunrise prayer, the Fajr.

His day will continue with classes and prayers focusing on the inner self and God.

Around the world, more than one billion Muslims will begin observing Ramadan on Friday, with prayer and fasting during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

Muslims believe during this month God revealed the Quran to the prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel.

The month-long observance is a time of introspection, said Caesar Farah, professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at the University.

“They fast from the time they can distinguish between a black and a white thread in the morning until sunset,” Farah said. “Fasting is one of the five pillars of the Islam faith.”

Muslims use the time to correct bad habits and improve their behavior, said Khaled, the president of the Muslim Student Association.

“Fasting allows us to focus on God by taking away the focus on physical needs,” Khaled said. “When you are in the state of fasting, in Islam it is an act of worshiping. You do it for no other reason than that you are commanded to.”

Khaled said he has more time during the day to study or pray.

“You don’t ever have to worry about what you are going to eat,” Khaled said. “You don’t have to worry about how long the line is at Chipotle.”

Ramadan begins at first sight of the crescent moon. The observance is determined by religious leaders and varies in different locations of the world, Farah said.

Sometimes it falls during finals week or in the summertime.

“Fasting can get exhausting during finals week, but we would view that as part of the purpose of Ramadan,” Khaled said. “Fasting includes not drinking water and you’re not suppose to chew gum or smoke.”

No able-bodied Muslim is excused from fasting, Khaled said.

“If you are sick or traveling then you are excused from fasting,” Khaled said. “You have to make it up through charity.”

Farah said pregnant or nursing women and the elderly could also be excused.

The fast is broken at sundown when families and friends sit down to eat a meal and pray together.

Traditionally, Muslims pray five times per day.

A special prayer, the Taraweeh, is not required but is often spoken during Ramadan as an offering. The prayer can last hours, Khaled said.

During the last 10 days of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the Night of Power with extra prayer to recognize when Muhammad received the first line of the Quran.

Farah said the United States should stop attacking Afghanistan during Ramadan if it has any respect for the Islamic world.

“We don’t think along the same lines. We think that this is a military operation and we aren’t going to give up for any reason,” Farah said.

He also said not ceasing operations in observance would further tarnish the poor image many already have of the United States.

Killing Osama bin Laden would be a mistake because he would be considered a martyr and his following would increase, Farah said.

“If he dies, he will become a saint to his followers,” Farah said. “So the best thing to do, if we can avoid it, is not to kill him.”

Khaled said bin Laden is a blurred Robin Hood figure for Afghanistans.

The impact on refugees would be devastating because they are already starving and would be without food even though the Northern Alliance has gained some control, he said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf objects to the strikes and last week visited officials in Paris and London imploring them to halt the military operation.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the operations should continue until all objectives are met.

Defense officials said Wednesday because the Taliban is collapsing, a new military plan would limit the use of bombs with the beginning of Ramadan.

However Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said Thursday that the bombing will not stop.

Elizabeth Putnam welcomes comments at [email protected]