Muslim community observes holy month of Ramadan, receives American respect

This week marks a special observance for students of the Islamic faith.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar, is a time when Muslims fast and commemorate the belief that during this month, the holy scriptures of the Quran were revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

The entire month is spent fasting from dawn to dusk. God instructs Muslims to fast just as those who were instructed by God to fast in earlier times.

The leader of Masjid Al-Nahl, a local Mosque, Imam Rashad Mujahid, 49, said he feels Ramadan is a time for spiritual growth and to strengthen family and community ties.

“Ramadan for me is a time to reflect and a time to bring your life back in discipline,” Mujahid said.

Mujahid Sultan, a 23-year-old mathematics student from Buffalo, N.Y., said he feels Ramadan helps to enhance faith by increasing in worship, prayer and fasting.

For Sultan, the month is more than not eating and drinking. It helps him focus on what is important.

“(Ramadan) brings you closer to God. It helps to you to identify with people less fortunate than you,” Sultan said.

The Quran states that during Ramadan, Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, angry and sarcastic retorts and gossip. Sexual intercourse during fasting in the day is not allowed but is permissible at night by married couples.

During Ramadan, people try to get along with each other better than they normally would. All obscene and unspiritual sights and sounds are avoided. Purity of both thought and action is important.

The fast is an act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God.

The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities. The purpose is to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm.

The first day of the next month is spent in great celebrations and rejoicings. It is observed as the Festival of Breaking Fast or Eid ul-Fitr.

Fasting during Ramadan is not mandatory, although many Muslims take part in this event.

Sultan said he feels fasting is fulfilling and symbolic.

“I’ve been doing it for most of my life. After you’ve been doing it for a while, it becomes easier,” Sultan said.

Sultan also said he feels that he is blessed through fasting.

Some non-Muslims who do not observe Ramadan still feel respectful toward this religious event.

Larry Ferguson, 21, a fourth-year business student from Charleston, S.C., said he has no relationship to the holiday but he respects the Muslim faith. 

“I grew up in an American society with no attachment to the faith; therefore, it does not mean anything to me personally. However, I do respect Muslims and their religion,” Ferguson said.

Tiffani Dowdell, 19, a sophomore pre-physical therapy student from Stone Mountain, Ga., agrees with Ferguson. 

“I am a Christian. I see nothing wrong with Ramadan. In my opinion, it is like the Christian season of Lent,” Dowdell said.  

“Both religions serve a higher power. Christians serve God and Muslims serve Allah,” Dowdell continued.

Sultan said there is respect for the Muslim faith among non-Muslims, and he believes that knowledge about Ramadan and the Muslim faith has grown among Americans.

“People are becoming more aware of Islam and the Muslim faith,” Sultan said.

Sultan said he thinks that people respect Ramadan but would acknowledge the event more if it were popularized among Americans.

“It is not a matter of respect; it’s a matter of knowing about it,” Sultan said.

Ferguson agreed.

“As a whole, Americans are not taught about the practices of the Muslim religion because it is not a popular American religion.”