Thursday, October 05, 2006

NewU: Ramadan: Truly Grounded in Prayer

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Ramadan: Truly Grounded in Prayer
By Brian Walker

Muslims believe that the angel Gabriel spoke to the prophet Muhammad, telling him that he was chosen to receive the word of Allah. During the month of Ramadan, Muhammad began speaking the verses which would later be transcribed into the Quran.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This year, Ramadan began on Sept. 23 in some parts of the world, and Sept. 24 in others.

During the holy month, Muslims pray, fast and give charity. At mosques around the world, Muslims read and recite the Quran daily, often finishing the entire book by Eid al-Fitr, the celebration which marks the end of Ramadan.

Many students of the Muslim faith at UC Irvine devote their lives spiritually, mentally and physically during this month.

Mariam Moustafa, a second-year biological sciences major, began her yearly fasting at the age of five and plans to continue for the rest of her life.

Moustafa admitted that during the first days of the fasting, it can be tough to concentrate in class because of thirst and hunger. However, she believes that the difficulties involved are minuscule compared to the benefits of attaining peace and a closer relationship to Allah.

“Ramadan is not just about fasting,” Moustafa said. “Fasting is only a part of Ramadan, which is truly grounded in prayer.”

Many Muslims gather in the quieter parts of campus during Ramadan and pray with fellow students.

“I often exchange a smile with fellow students who are sharing in the holy month,” Moustafa said. “It brings people closer to Allah, and closer to each other.”

Moustafa believes that this month chastens her, since she often finds herself taking things for granted. During this month, she gains a greater understanding of her blessings.

Muslims also strive to purify their actions during the month of Ramadan. Moustafa explained that the month is very important to her because she feels a heightened sense of self-awareness.

“You often don’t realize your actions,” Moustafa said. “During Ramadan, you pay more attention.”

Muslims refrain from cursing during this holy month, and also from any form of overindulgence.

Muslims donate the money that is saved on food during Ramadan to charity. More importantly, participants devote their time to charity work. In past years, Moustafa has devoted her time to the hungry on the infamous Skid Row in Los Angeles.

With excitement similar to that of Moustafa’s, other Ramadan students’ expressions, when I interviewed them, suggested that they genuinely enjoy devoting themselves during the holy month.

Many Muslim students carry their prayer rugs with them throughout the month and enjoy praying in Aldrich Park.

MSU offers a daily meal in the evenings at the Phoenix Grill where students gather, pray and break their daily fast.

During this meal, which is called Iftar, a date is usually the first food consumed in breaking the daily fast.

“Ramadan is not a penitentiary month, but a month to bring yourself closer to Allah,” Moustafa said. “It is not a punishment, but a privilege.”

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