The devastation and suffering caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have heightened American Muslims awareness of the meaning of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that begins Wednesday, local Islamic leaders said this week.
Ramadan is all about helping people, and we have so many unfortunate people around us and within our reach, said Ziad Abu Hummos, president of the Masjid Saad, a conservative mosque in West Toledo. God ordered us to help these needy people.
During Ramadan, whose dates are determined by the Islamic lunar calendar, the world s 1.2 billion Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink, and other sensual pleasures from the break of dawn until the sun sets.
Following the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, Muslims focus on spirituality and prayer during the 30-day holy month. This year, American Muslims are especially mindful of the suffering caused by war and nature.
There are many things that affect our prayers and our lives, said Imam Farooq Abo-Elzahab of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. Of course, people pray for peace and for the safety of people around the world. With the natural disaster like the hurricanes, and with violence all over the world, this becomes the month that we put our heart and soul into prayer.
The imam, or spiritual leader, of the Perrysburg Township mosque said some people misunderstand the concept of abstaining from food, drink, and sexual activity from dawn to dusk, failing to grasp the real motivation.
It is much deeper than just abstaining from these things. It s a spiritual practice that benefits society, Imam Farooq said. For example, he said, Muslims also are required to refrain from gossip, to help people who lack resources, and to spend more time with one s family.
We have to shift our minds and intellect to goodness. It is a time of victory over our shortcomings, over selfishness and materialism, the imam said.
Throughout the world, extra prayer services are held each night of Ramadan and the Qur an, or Islamic holy book, is read aloud during the services. At the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, the highly visible facility at the intersection of I-75 and I-475 south of Toledo, Imam Farooq will recite the Qur anic verses each night.
The imam memorized the entire Qur an as a young student in his native Egypt, and continues to refresh his memorization skills through daily study and meditation on the scriptures.
Memorization of the Qur an is mandatory in Egypt for those who seek to become imams, Imam Farooq said. I memorized the Qur an when I was 10 years old, and it became the subject of a test every year until I graduated.
The Prophet Muhammad, who lived from 570 to 632 A.D., received the Qur an in a divine inspiration from God during Ramadan, which is why the month is set apart as a holy time.
The Islamic Center will host community dinners, open to the public, at 7 p.m. each Saturday during Ramadan, said Dr. S. Zaheer Hasan, president of the center.
This is a month of peace and blessings for all humanity, Dr. Hasan said, even though it definitely is a somber time with the war in Iraq and millions of Americans affected by the hurricanes. We re saddened, but what can we do except pray?
The Islamic Center is collecting donations and supplies for hurricane victims, he said, and will be donating food to local food banks and soup kitchens. The Prophet Muhammad promised special blessings for feeding people during Ramadan, he added.
Our dinners at the mosque are open to everyone, and there is a beautiful saying of the Prophet that says, Anyone who provides food to break the fast to a fasting individual [is rewarded with] his sins getting forgiven and is saved from the hellfire, Dr. Hasan said.
During the last 10 days of Ramadan, which concludes Nov. 4 with the Eid al-Fitr, or feast of fast breaking, God s blessings are even greater, Imam Farooq and Dr. Hasan said. The Night of Power falls during those final 10 days, but the Prophet never specified which night. By not knowing the Night of Power, Muslims are inspired to pray and fast more intensely during the entire 10-day period, Dr. Hasan said.
Muhammad also is quoted as saying that he who performs an obligatory duty during the month [of Ramadan] is as if he had performed 70 duties in another month.
The Islamic Center will honor one of its members, Hussein Boraby, before the dinner Oct. 8 for his 50 years of service in calling for prayer.
Along with extra prayer services, the Masjid Saad, 4346 Secor Rd., will hold an open house Oct. 15, Mr. Abu Hummos said.
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