Imagine waking up at 4:30 a.m. every day just to eat because you know that it’s the last time you can let anything pass your lips until after sundown. This includes food, water, cigarettes and even most nonessential medications.
Imagine fasting like this for an entire month. That is what many Muslims, including some students on campus, are doing this month in celebration of Ramadan – the month-long fast that commemorates Allah’s revelations of the first verses of the Quran to Mohammad. Ramadan stresses humility among its believers. The fast began on Tuesday, Oct. 4 and will continue through Wednesday, Nov. 2.
There was some confusion about the day that fasting was supposed to start and the times at which it applied. Abdallah Taher, a junior film and media arts major, said that he began fasting on Monday, Oct. 3, the day before the official start of Ramadan, just to be sure. Others have also debated about the time that the fast is supposed to begin each morning.
“There is always some confusion,” said Ghaith Dababneh, a Temple graduate who now works in public relations for a local nonprofit organization. “The confusion starts when people see the crescent moon.”
Traditionally the fast is dictated by the lunar calendar, meaning it is subject to the phases of the moon. Fasting begins and ends with the crescent moon. Each day believers begin fasting at dawn and break fast at sundown. Since the phases of the sun and the moon appear differently in places around the globe, people debate on which day the fast officially begins.
“Most Muslims recognize the moon over Saudi Arabia and Mecca,” Dababneh said. “It moves 11 days each year, which makes it more confusing.”
Ramadan is a time to gather with family and friends as well. At dusk, when it is time to break the fast, family members come together for meals. For some, Ramadan brings fond memories of home. Ali Ibrahim, owner of Ali’s Middle Eastern Cuisine on 12th Street, remembers observing Ramadan in Palestine.
“You should see it,” he said. “You could rob any place. Everyone is out in the streets gathering together and eating.”
“It’s harder to fast in this country,” said Ahmed Abu Al-Faraj, a junior civil engineering major from Saudi Arabia. “There [Saudi Arabia], everyone is fasting. Here, you see everyone eating and smoking all day … It’s not bad this year though, because it’s only for a few hours. The winter is easiest because the days are shorter.”
“It’s not just about the fast, it is emotional too,” said Omar Arshad, president of Temple’s Muslim Student Association. “Thinking positive thoughts is just as important as restraining yourself physically.”
Arshad said MSA is working this year to organize a charity event called Fast-A-Thon around the fasting season. It is a one-day event on Oct. 25, in which non-Muslims are encouraged to join in the tradition to benefit the less fortunate.
“Hundreds of thousands of people live in these conditions, and far worse,” Arshad said. “At least we know that there is a meal for us at the end of the day.”
This year’s proceeds will go to The Greater Philadelphia Food Bank and victims of the earthquake in South Asia.
“Many of us have family members there,” Arshad said. “It is important for us to remember them.”
Cheryl Ellis can be reached at email@example.com.