Muslims offer prayers in front of the historic Taj Mahal on Eid al-Fitr in Agra, India, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. Eid al-Fitr is a holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which is observed by millions of Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Pawan Sharma)
At sunset on Monday, the Islamic month of Ramadan begins. This holy month is when most Muslims fast from dawn to dark, abstaining from food, drink, sexual relations, and other actions as a way of providing for purification and reflection to be closer to Allah and to understand aspects of suffering.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims traditionally also stop fighting during Ramadan to focus on the sacred.
Muslims at the Fatemah Islamic Center, 3303 Holland-Sylvania Rd., will gather every night during Ramadan to break their fast and have social time.
Sheik Rahim Al-Saedy, the imam at this Shia Islamic congregation (Shia Muslims differ from Sunnis, which is the predominant branch for Toledo-area Muslims, based on a difference in leadership recognition in the early years of the faith), said that at Fatemah, there will be English instruction for children, Arabic lectures for adults with some invited scholars, readings from the Quran, and food every night.
The center is open from 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. “to whenever people leave,” the imam said.
“Some people socialize longer than others. Some people have work and school, some don’t,” Clay Chiarelott, the center’s board president, added.
Fatemah Islamic Center has been incorporated as a nonprofit organization for nearly a year and a half, Mr. Chiarelott said. Though around 160 people have participated in activities, typically between 20 and 40 people worship at services.
The big weekly worship service is held Thursday nights as the day of prayer begins at sunset. The Islamic calendar is based on the moon’s cycle rather than the sun’s, and a year is about 354 days, so months do not always fall in the same season.
Sheik Rahim came to Fatemah Islamic Center after assisting at the Mosque of Imam Ali in Lambertville, Mich. He was in Kentucky before that, but he was born in Iraq.
During Operation Desert Storm, he said, the U.S. Army came to his state and he went with the Army to Baghdad. When the Army withdrew without overthrowing Saddam Hussein, Sheik Rahim was among 70,000 people who went to a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia, and he lived there from 1991 to 1997. In 1997 he moved to Kentucky, and he has been in Toledo about five years.
During Ramadan, the imam said, everyone has a special assignment “not to make a sin and to be nice to people, to be nice with your family because this is the month to show what we call your soul, everything in your heart, you have to open to people.”
Non-Muslims might not understand, which can make things awkward. “Sometimes coworkers will try to be nice and offer lunch, not knowing” Mr. Chiarelott said. “As Muslims we don’t want to be rude, but we have to turn it down.”