Ramadan, which began this month, commemorates the time when the Prophet Muhammad received the Quran in the year 610. This week’s clergy discuss how the holiest month for Muslims changes their daily lives.
Faroque Ahmad Khan
Trustee of the board, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury:
One of the key impacts of Ramadan is using the power of mind over body. Quran Chapter 2 Verse 183 (Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation) states, “O You who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self restraint.” Abstaining from water, tea and food from dawn to dusk — from 3:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. — a period of over 16 hours, is challenging, but when someone wants to accomplish something, it is doable. Equally important are the requirements of abstaining from harmful personal conduct. You must control your anger, speak softly and choose your words after thinking through the consequences. Do not harm anyone with your words, deeds or actions. This requires an extra dose of patience. While Muslims in the U.S.A. who fast can expect a healthy meal at the Iftar (breaking the fast), millions around the globe are unable to have that luxury — think Syrian refugees. When I feel hungry or thirsty during the fast, I often think about those who are perpetually hungry here and around the globe. During Ramadan, many Muslims fulfill the obligations of Zakat — translated into “purification” of one’s wealth — by giving away 2.5 percent or more of their expendable assets to those in need. During Ramadan, we have additional prayers and increased emphasis on spirituality and an exercise in controlling bodily physical needs. It’s an extended exercise in getting closer to the creator and hoping and praying for salvation in the hereafter.
Dr. Hafiz Rehman
Trustee of the board, Masjid Darul Quran: The Muslim Center of Long Island, Bay Shore:
During Ramadan, my whole day’s activity is an act of worship. My day begins at 3 a.m. with a token meal and enough fluids to sustain me for the next 18 hours. Being an Insulin-dependent diabetic, I reduce my dosage by half to avoid any hypoglycemic episodes. At 4 a.m. I go to the mosque for the dawn congregational prayers. On return home I try to sleep from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., when my full day begins in earnest. As a pediatrician, I carry out my day’s load of patients as usual, and the only thing that changes around the office is that there are no coffee breaks for me, and lunchtime is a prayer time. I shut my door and indulge for half an hour with God, benefit from the reading of the Quran and complete my formal afternoon prayer of Zuhr. I break the fast at sunset with a very simple meal, often at the mosque with the community, which enables me to join the sunset Maghrib prayers too. The night vigil prayers begin at 10 p.m. and last way past midnight. These special “in Ramadan only” prayers give the faithful an opportunity to listen to the whole Quran over the period of 30 days. Ramadan is the month of charity, a month of goodwill to other faiths and communities, a month of drawing yourself closer to God, when what I practice will hopefully carry me for the remainder of the 11 months.
Muslim Reform Movement Organization, Brookville Multi-Faith Center:
I particularly value Prophet Muhammad’s advice on self-reflection in this month. He said: “Anyone who fasts and engages in self-evaluation in Ramadan will find heaven.” (Translation by Sultan Abdulhameed) Self-evaluation is the spiritual component of Ramadan. It is to assess where you are in life, set goals for the future, and think of how to get there. During Ramadan we wake up two hours before dawn, so I assign an hour every morning to assess where I am in life. Prophet Muhammad is a role model because he created excellence in all aspects of his life, and regular self-evaluation was his practice. I also want to make improvements in key areas of life including my spiritual practice, trying to make it more meaningful and personal. Also, I think of how I can be more caring in my relationships with my wife, children, siblings, friends and colleagues. An important aspect of fasting is to become healthier by practicing restraint so we don’t give in to excessive eating. I think about how I will carry over this habit in the coming months. It is time for an annual review of my financial health, to make sure that my spending does not exceed income, that I save some of my income and invest it, and I have funds to contribute to good causes. The practice of self-evaluation in Ramadan sets a direction for my life until the next Ramadan.