Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ramadan in the Heartland

The observance of Ramadan has begun for Muslims the world over.

Locally, the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center (CIMIC) follows the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in marking today as the first day.

What's Ramadan? One source describes a family's activities as follows:
A typical day in Ramadan begins with the family waking before dawn to share a meal and pray the first prayer of the day. Once dawn arrives (signaled by the "call to prayer" from the minaret in Muslim countries) all eating and drinking stops. Some people will go back to sleep after the prayer, others will stay awake and recite the Quran, the holy book of Islam.

During the day Muslims work or go to school as they do every day. Two of the five daily prayers Muslims are obliged to perform occur in the early and late afternoon. A student or worker may therefore try to find a quiet place to say these prayers, which take only a few minutes. This is true throughout the year, not just in Ramadan.

At sunset, the family gathers to break the fast, traditionally with water and dates. Sometimes Muslim students find themselves in the middle of a class at the time they are to break the fast, and other Muslims may be still working, so they will nibble on a date or sip some water. It is important to break the fast on time every day to express appreciation to God for making it permissible to eat and drink once more.

After the performance of the fourth prayer of the day, the family usually sits down to share a full meal. Once it is dark, it is time for the fifth prayer of the day. In Ramadan, many Muslims follow this prayer with extra congregational prayers in the mosque every night. Some people will stay up late into the night praying and reading the Quran.
For more info, check out the Inside Islam blog, hosted by the University of Wisconsin Madison and Wisconsin Public Radio. The site features links to other resources, like Muslim Matters.

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One of the most engaging books I have read about Islam and its adherents (tangential to Ramadan) presently occupies space on our New Books shelves ... Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists.
Michael Hamilton Morgan reveals how early Muslim advancements in science and culture lay the cornerstones of the European Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and modern Western society ... he introduces scholars like Ibn Al-Haytham, Ibn Sina, Al-Tusi, Al-Khwarizmi, and Omar Khayyam, towering figures who revolutionized the mathematics, astronomy, and medicine of their time and paved the way for Newton, Copernicus, and many others. And he reminds us that inspired leaders from Muhammad to Suleiman the Magnificent and beyond championed religious tolerance, encouraged intellectual inquiry, and sponsored artistic, architectural, and literary works that still dazzle us with their brilliance.
A nuanced review of Morgan's book can be found here.

Assalaamu Alaikum.

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