The first Ramadan after Sept. 11 will definitely be a time for deep reflection. I enter the month with mixed feelings. On one hand Ramadan is a time of joy. I enter the month eager to begin my fasting, reading of the Koran, and the other practices of this sacred month. On the other hand I can't help feeling a little heavy hearted because of Sept. 11.
I ask myself over and over, "How could someone claim to be a Muslim and commit such a heartless and evil atrocity?" How could someone claim to be a follower of Prophet Mohammed, a man who exemplified compassion and love for his fellow man, and do something so contrary to everything he taught?
About the holy month: During this first post-Sept. 11 Ramadan I will reflect on these things, but perhaps I should take a moment and more thoroughly explain Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar. Muslims believe Prophet Mohammed received the first revelations from the Koran during this month. In the Koran, God tells Muslims to commemorate the revelation of the Koran by fasting during this month. He also tells us that our brothers, Christians and Jews, were also taught to observe fasting. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during the daylight hours, from dawn to sunset, abstaining from all food and drink. In addition, we are encouraged, through Prophet Mohammed's example, to read a thirtieth of the Koran each day.
One of the goals of Ramadan is to learn self-restraint or self-discipline. Fasting helps us gain control of our desires and subjugate our urges for obedience to God. The fast is also a means for purifying our heart and mind. The discipline of abstaining from food and drink, coupled with reading and reflection on the Koran, is designed to help us focus on the true purpose of our life, serving our creator, and help us gain the strength to overcome our selfish desires and passions.
A main point: Throughout the Koran, God emphasizes over and over that we serve him by helping each other. We demonstrate our love for God by loving each other. We earn his forgiveness by forgiving each other. This is not always easy.
We need the self-restraint that Ramadan is designed to teach. We need to restrain our anger, frustration and impatience. Somewhere along the line the terrorists of Sept. 11 forgot all of this. They allowed their anger and frustration to make them deaf and blind to some of the most precious things that Islam is designed to teach.
Remembering victims: During this Ramadan, this first post-Sept. 11 Ramadan, I am going to remember the victims of this tragedy. I hope God will accept all our prayers for the victims and their families. In addition, I hope to learn greater self-restraint and practice greater love for the human family. I know without love for humanity and the willingness to help people my faith is empty. Without love for humanity and the willingness to help people I cannot claim to be a true follower of the Koran and Prophet Mohammed.
XDawud W. Abdullah is the imam, or prayer leader, of the Youngstown Islamic Center.