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As world watches, Muslims begin month of fasting

The holy month of Ramadan, when every Muslim who is able is commanded to fast from all earthly pleasures from dawn to sunset daily, will begin next week.

With attention focused on the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan this year and some suggesting that the air raids there should be halted for the month, Ramadan has been in the public consciousness well in advance of its onset on or about Nov. 17. The start of Ramadan depends on the sighting of the new moon.

The month, which recalls the giving of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, to the Prophet Mohammed, is normally a time of prayerful introspection for Muslims as well as an occasion for people to gather for breaking the fast each night.

This year, with the events of Sept. 11 still fresh in everyone's minds, Ramadan's salient feature of somber reflection is expected to be enhanced even more.

“I think people are probably more thoughtful and their minds are with all the victims, the families of the war, our servicemen over there, and the civilians in Afghanistan who are going to have to endure bombing raids during the month,” said Cherrefe Kadri, president of the council of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.

“Because of this tragedy we had Sept. 11, people are feeling sad about it, and they will be remembering the day in their prayers and wishing that it not be repeated anymore,” added Mustafa Albar, principal of the Toledo Islamic Academy on Secor Road.

At the same time, however, Ms. Kadri said Muslims will likely find it comforting to be together each night when they break the fast. “There are a lot of invitations to get together during Ramadan. People tend to visit more, get together more.”

The Islamic Center in Perrysburg is planning a community dinner every Saturday at 5:30 p.m. beginning Nov. 24 and running through the end of Ramadan. Taraweeh prayers also will be said at the mosque nightly at 7:30 during the month-long observance.

At Masjid Saad on Secor Road in West Toledo, the mosque that operates the Toledo Islamic Academy, Taraweeh prayers will be said nightly at 8.

Students in the Perrysburg Islamic Center's Sunday school will have a “Welcoming Ramadan” program tomorrow and throughout the month will take part in various activities including a Qur'an recitation program and coloring contest.

Mr. Albar said his students at the Toledo Islamic Academy are being reminded after their prayers that Ramadan is coming. “They have been counting it down.” He said he wants them to have the same excitement they always have had about their religion's major observance.

“At the same time, we are reminding them of the people who lost their lives, to pray for them, and also to remember the poor people and donate to them if they can, because Ramadan is a time of doing good things more than usual.”

Ms. Kadri agreed, adding that Ramadan is a good time to organize a food drive or volunteer at a soup kitchen. “Part of the lesson of Ramadan is to know how others feel, to know how a hungry person feels.”

Ramadan ends on or about Dec. 16 with the Eid ul-Fitr, a major Muslim holiday known as the “feast of fast-breaking.”

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