The holy month of Ramadan has started for Muslims. Ramadan is a month of rejuvenation and cleansing. Muslims intensify their worship, self-reformation and charitable donations during this month. The idea of fasting has been inculcated in all religions though strict conformity to the ordinances relating to this is no longer observed. In Islam, the guidelines relating to the fast are clearly stated and defined.
The Holy Quran states: “O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous The prescribed fasting is for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or is on a journey shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation — the feeding of a poor man. And whoso performs a good work with willing obedience, it is better for him. And fasting is good for you, if you only knew.” (2:184-185)
It is evident from this Quranic verse that not everyone is required to fast. Fasting is obligated on adults not children. Women who are on their menstrual cycle, pregnant or nursing are not required to observe fast during this time. They, however can makeup those days after the month of Ramadan is over. Similarly, those on a journey are not required to fast, but they must make up the missed days at a later time.
Muslims fast from dawn till dusk. It is customary and is considered desirable that a light breakfast should be taken immediately before the commencement of the fast. The breaking of the fast after sunset should not be made an occasion for gorging oneself with food and drink.
Ramadan is also a month where Muslims are asked to be more charitable. It is related of the Prophet Muhammad that during Ramadan, his own concern for and care of the poor, the needy, the sick and the orphan was intensified manifold, and that his charity knew no limit.
Mosques around the country hold Ramadan open houses to invite neighbors and faith leaders to break the fast. It is an excellent opportunity for Americans to learn about Muslims and Ramadan, especially this year, with so much anti-Muslim rhetoric in the media. This way they can judge for themselves that True Islam is not a foreign religion. True Islam is a continuation of the same beliefs as in Judaism and Christianity. They will learn that their Muslim neighbors believe in serving the humanity, are patriotic, and want to live in a peaceful society. They will also learn that their Muslim neighbors condemn terrorism and extremism and are distressed with the senseless barbaric attacks by ISIS and their ilk. Let this Ramadan be the time we unite as a nation and overcome the mistrust of Islam and Muslims.
Saima Sheikh is a National Spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. Follow her on Twitter @SaimaGSheikh