Millions of Muslims around the world are observing the month of Ramadan through fasting by day and praying by night in effort to practice the teachings of their prophet, Muhammad.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith — this means that fasting is obligatory for every healthy, adult Muslim.
In Islam, fasting means to abstain from eating, drinking and marital affairs from dawn to sunset.
Usually, a fasting person eats a good meal called Suhoor before dawn and breaks his/her fast at sunset with a date, followed by another large meal known as Iftar.
The elderly and the sick are exempt from fasting; instead, they are instructed to feed a needy person for every day of the month.
Expecting and nursing mothers are exempt from fasting as well, but they are allowed to make up the days they miss later on.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is viewed as an act of obedience and submission to God’s commands, and is done with honesty, sincerity and faithfulness.
Ramadan is considered a sacred month in which the Quran, Islam’s holy book, was revealed to Prophet Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel more than 1,400 years ago.
In addition to fasting, Muslims also use this month to read the Quran and reflect on God’s commands.
Special nightly prayers are also provided at their local mosques.
After the completion of the month, Muslims celebrate the festive and joyous holiday of Eid Ul-Fitr, literally “the festival of the fast-breaking.”
On Eid Day, Muslims attend special congregational prayers in the morning, wearing new clothes and feeling good about fulfilling their obligation to their God.
Throughout the day, Muslims greet each other with a traditional salutation of “Eid Mubarak,” literally “holiday blessings.”
After this morning prayer service, Muslim families visit each other, exchanging ethnic sweets and pastries.
Families exchange sweets like Kahk and Ma’moul, which are special cookies with dates, walnuts or pistachios; Kenafah, sweetened shredded dough with sweet cheese or nuts as filling; and baklava, sweetened phyllo dough with nuts.
Children are also often rewarded with gifts and money to celebrate their accomplishments and achievements during Ramadan.
Randa Shabayek is a member of the Masjid Al-Kheir mosque in Youngstown.