[Altaf Ali is executive director of the Miami chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.]
As the Muslim communities in South Florida and all over the world prepare mentally and spiritually for the sacred month of Ramadan, we are reminded of our obligation and responsibilities toward humanity.
As we prepare for Ramadan, American Muslims are faced with two adversities: the devastating memories of the Sept. 11 attack on our country and the recent statements of Osama bin Laden. Our hearts are pained and our minds are hampered by this. The appeals of Osama are contrary to the true tenets of Islam and serves as a callous reminder of extremism.
Ramadan is a special time of the year. Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on concerns of their daily routines and focus on fasting, prayer and charity. While fasting, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and conjugal relations during the daylight hours. During Ramadan, Muslims will frequent Islamic centers to break the fast and take part in extra prayers.
The prophet Muhammad was a charitable person, but he was most generous during the month of Ramadan. In the Quran we are told, “O you who believe, Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.”
During this special month, Muslims take time to pray for their families, friends, those less fortunate, those who are suffering and all of humanity. One of the main benefits of Ramadan is an increased compassion for those in need of the necessities of life, a sense of self-purification and reflection and a renewed focus on spirituality.
Muslims also appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by family and friends throughout the month. Perhaps the greatest practical benefit is the yearly lesson in self-restraint and discipline that can carry forward to other aspects of a Muslim's life, such as work and education. (MORE)