Ramadan marks month of fasting

For 30 days, from dusk till dawn, the Muslim community cannot eat nor drink. It is a time for self-reflection, a cleansing of the soul and a focus on its devotion to God.

The months of September and October mark the birth and death of the religious celebration Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar. All over the world, the Muslim community joins together to celebrate this holy event and students from the Islamic Society at the College are participating too.

“Ramadan is like an extra credit month,” Arooj Akhtar, president of the Islamic Society and junior biology and art history major, said. “It is a way to perfect your character, become disciplined and resist temptation.”

Ramadan represents the five pillars of the Islamic religion: fasting, charity, prayer five times a day, proclamation of faith and making a pilgrimage to Mecca. This holy celebration contains all of the pillars except for visiting Mecca.

The birth of Ramadan is marked by the sighting of the new moon, which began this year on Sept. 12. Once the Muslim community sees the moon, the fasting begins the next day.

The Islamic religion calls for individuals to follow specific requirements during the fasting period. The community must eat a pre-dawn meal, have the specific intention to fast, abstain from sin and complete all prayers.

“Fasting is not hard at all,” Akhtar said. “You get over not eating after two days. It becomes routine.”

“You are also more focused on other aspects of your life,” Meraj Qazi, general member of the Islamic Society and sophomore health care management major, added.

Also part of Ramadan is zakat, a mandatory charity donation of 2 percent from an individual’s total disposable wealth. Those individuals who are not fasting can still donate during Ramadan.

Children are encouraged to participate in the fasting period and many families allow them to practice. However, once children hit puberty, they are obligated to fast.

“I remember being in third or fourth grade and being able to do a little (fasting),” Qazi said.

He also said that there are some exceptions to fasting. For example, individuals whose health may be compromised in the process do not have to fast. This includes older individuals, pregnant women and people who are ill.

“It’s funny when people ask how long you are fasting and you’re like, ’30 days,’ and they’re like, ‘What? 30 days?'” Qazi said. “It’s more than starving yourself.”

When the moon is seen at the end of the month in October, the Muslim community gathers together for eid-ul-fitr, the festival of breaking fast. Family and friends congregate from across the world to participate in this big feast.

Both Ashktar and Qazi have been members of the Islamic Society at the College for several years. During Ramadan, this organization has dinner, iftar, the term for breaking fast, at sunset with the Muslim community on campus.

“Ramadan is a month to better yourself, give yourself the opportunity to do things you wanted to do all year long,” Qazi said. “You are not only working on your character, but also yourself,” Akhtar said.

The Islamic Society strongly encourages students who are interested in joining this organization to email islam@tcnj.edu or come to the meetings, held every Monday from 9-10 p.m. in the Spiritual Center.