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Ramadan – The Pillars of Islam & Eid ul-Fitr

September 18, 2009
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims pilgrims circle the Kaaba inside and outside the Grand Mosque during the last week of Ramadan in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Issa Mohammad)

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims pilgrims circle the Kaaba inside and outside the Grand Mosque during the last week of Ramadan in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Issa Mohammad)

As the Holy month of Ramadan nears an end, Muslims worldwide have flocked to the Grand Mosque, Kaaba located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia to pay their pilgrimage and render their duty towards fulfilling one of the five pillars of Islam.

Essential to Muslims are the five pillars of Islam, including the ritual of fasting during the month of Ramadan, where Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and engaging in sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk.

Fasting is prescribed to all Muslims for several reasons; first and foremost it teaches us to remember the people deprived of the basic necessities in life and learn the importance of Zakāh,

Zakāh (Zakāt), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is the giving of a small percentage of one’s possessions (surplus wealth) to charity generally to poor and needy Muslims individual…it serves principally as the welfare contribution to poor and deprived Muslims, although others may have a rightful share. It is the duty of an Islamic community not just to collect zakat but to distribute it fairly as well (Wikipedia)

During Ramadan, Muslims are urged to refrain not only from the basic food and drinks, but also practice patience and just behavior devoid of violence, harsh language, anger and other hostile mannerism.

From personal experience, these thirty days are one of the most rejuvenating days for Muslims, allowing each one of us to reflect and cherish every little thing that we are blessed with.

Here’s an interesting excerpt from my conversation with a fellow Muslim, Hesham Karim who has fasted this year after 6 years out of his 9 years living in the United States:

MK: Let’s begin with your experience, how has the journey been during the last couple of weeks?

HK: Fasting has taught me the importance of self-control. I don’t think there’s any another practice, which can teach you self-control better than this experience. I feel I have an inner strength and peace now, which I previously lacked.

MK: What was the hardest aspect of your experience from fasting this year?

HK: Overcoming my addictions; smoking and caffeine. However, through these last few days, I have somehow managed to conquer them both.

MK: Reflecting back, what had deterred you in the past from practicing this ritual?

HK: In the past, I used to always have some excuse or the other. From busy work schedules to my caffeine addictions, however now that I have seriously exerted an effort into this, it didn’t seem as hard as I had previously imagined. I guess every obstacle in life can be overcome with a sincere effort.

MK: On a broader level, do you feel you are better able to understand people who are living in grave poverty and suffering in starvation?

HK: Yes, fasting teaches you a lot about the less fortunate people and it gives you a sense of understanding of what these people might be going through every day in their lives. There’s always going to be someone less fortunate than you are and fasting urges you to fill those gaps by sharing and spending on others.

MK: How has fasting affected your belief in faith and religion?

HK: I think it’s the closeness with my religion that has encouraged me to take this step to fast, which in turn has brought me a lot closer to my religion and has taught me how faith can be used to do good to others. I fail to understand why the negative side of religion is practiced so openly, when there are such peaceful teachings ingrained within Islam. It’s a beautiful religion, which speaks of self-control, forgiveness and respect for everything, including the ground you walk on.

MK: Can these teachings be put into practice on a macro-level?

HK: Everyone can do something at every level. A plumber can take out $20 and donate it towards a good cause. From a business point of you, just like governments collect taxes to help build the infrastructure and economy of a nation, similarly if every person can take a little bit out of their savings to invest in the cause of other less fortunate ones there could be a change. Why leave this task only for the NGOs? Why can’t it be mandated in countries on an overall basis? Just like governments have budgets for healthcare, there could be budgets for eradicating the social divisions between people and classes. If the world’s population is 6 trillion and even half of the world’s richer countries can contribute $1, the other half can receive 3 trillion.

MK: What’re your plans for the grand feast – Eid ul-Fitr?

HK: *Smiles* –that’s always my favorite question. Depends on what my wife has on menu for the day!

As the countdown to Eid ul-Fitr begins, which is celebrated each year to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan, festivities have already begun all over the world. As Muslims from Chicago and Indonesia to Kenya and Iran co-join in celebrations in Mecca, let us resonate these festivities amongst the less fortunate ones by giving out a little bit from our shares of wealth.

In this act of sharing, let us keep our doors open for all underprivileged people –devoid of their religious, cultural and racial identities.

“And mankind is naught but a single nation.” (Quran, 2:213)

Muslims offer prayers on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan at the Jama Masjid in New Delhi, India, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

Muslims offer prayers on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan at the Jama Masjid in New Delhi, India, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

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