Ramadan revealed

By Nashrah Maryum

This September, one billion Muslims around the world, including those of our very own campus, will observe the holy month of Ramadan. Considering the current climate of Islamophobia, characterized by popular negative perceptions of Islam, it is worthwhile to re-examine the true meaning of being a Muslim through an understanding of Ramadan’s core principles, which include charity, unity and compassion towards mankind.

Ramadan is the month in which, according to the followers of Islam, the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). During this month, Muslims practice the religious obligation of fasting from dawn to dusk.

By fasting, Muslims identify with those who do not have the means to nourish and sustain themselves. Serving as a religious tune-up, Ramadan is also a time for Muslims to reflect upon their actions and ensure their lives mirror the Islamic ideals of peace, harmony and service to others. As stated in an Islamic saying, “Prayer carries us half way to God, fasting brings us to the door of His palace and alms-giving procures us admission.”

Living in a society where the principles of materialism and instant gratification are at large, it is necessary to learn to control our human desires, and in doing so, simplify our lives. These elements of restraint and compassion valued during Ramadan are also shared by other religions. Christian and Jewish holidays like Lent and Yom Kippur, both of which involve fasting and prayer, also entail the same principles of self-control, humility and discipline.

While it is imperative to uphold these valuable principles, it can prove to be difficult. Studying for exams, working and even walking in the heat is challenging on an empty stomach.

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Fortunately, being part of a strong, supportive community can make fasting easier. Here on campus, a feeling of togetherness is readily apparent as Muslim students gather at the mosque daily to pray and end their fasts together. We open our apartments to share homemade dishes with fellow fasting students, and even meet up at the local IHOP at 4 a.m. to catch an early breakfast before the sun rises and the next fast begins.

Ramadan is always a time for Muslim families, friends and community members to reconnect, worship together and unite to promote greater social responsibility by offering support to numerous charitable causes.

During the month of Ramadan, the Council on Islamic American Relations here at the University of Illinois hosts its annual Fast-a-thon dinner, the largest interfaith event in the nation with over 250 campuses participating. Each year students from all religious backgrounds are invited to fast for a day and then share an Iftar, or fast-breaking dinner. CAIR also encourages participants to donate money, which will be collected for a local food bank in an effort to exemplify the principles of compassion and charity embodied by Ramadan.

CAIR-UIUC would like to invite students of all faiths to share the experience of Ramadan by partaking in Fast-a-thon this year on Wednesday, Sept. 17 from 6-8 p.m. at the University YMCA. It is in the spirit of Ramadan that Fast-a-thon is organized, as it strives to bring together people of all walks of life in order to help the needy and promote a more tolerant and united campus community.

Nashrah Maryum is a sophomore and member of CAIR-UIUC.