University Muslims celebrate fasting and purification together

by Sam Kean

For most Muslims in the United States, including those at the University, Monday morning marked the beginning of Ramadan, a time of spiritual devotion considered the holiest month in the Islamic year.
Ramadan serves to increase spiritual awareness and devotion to the Muslim god, Allah, in a number of ways, including the well-known ritual of fasting between sunrise and sunset. Muslims also abstain from smoking, sex and drinking water or other beverages during the day.
These commitments shift consciousness away from bodily concerns. In addition, Muslims increase prayer and charity work during this month to help strengthen themselves.
Omar Ali, president of the University’s Muslim Student Association, said Ramadan is a “purification of the soul.”
Many Muslims prepare themselves by fasting in the month prior to Ramadan, Ali said, but it gets easier as the month goes on.
Fasting also develops sympathy for the less fortunate and increases thankfulness for Allah’s gifts.
Muslims normally eat a pre-fast meal, called suhoor, and a post-fast meal, called iftar, shortly after sunset each day.
During the iftar, many Muslims prepare their favorite foods and invite others to dine with them because everyone is eating at the same time.
Ali said Ramadan emphasizes the gathering of the community. “It’s a blessing to feed each other,” he said.
The Muslim Student Association celebrated the first day of Ramadan by breaking the fast together in Ford Hall. The group will hold similar events throughout the month. This Thursday, they invite anyone interested in Ramadan to go to a mosque and join in the celebration.
Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month of the Islamic year, which is based on a lunar calendar.
Because a new moon was only visible to Texas, Oklahoma and states in the Mountain and Pacific time zones on Nov. 25, the new month, Ramadan, began Sunday in those places. For the rest of the country, including Minnesota, it began yesterday.
A lunar calendar is 11 to 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, which means the dates of Ramadan shift each year. This year, because it falls during early winter, fasts for Muslims in the United States are shorter than for Muslims in other parts of the world.
Ramadan ends everywhere in the United States on Dec. 25.