Amid a row of women bowing in diaphanous, brightly-colored gowns, Sughran Ahmed prayed — prostrate in silence, rising with the imam’s sung, “Allah Akbar,” God is great. Suddenly, her 3-year-old son, Muhammad Ali, broke free from his caretaker, ran to his mother and threw his arms around her neck. She smiled at him tenderly.

It is an affectionate congregation, said chairman Abdul Rahman of the Islamic Center of the East Bay, recently displaced by an Aug. 12 arson fire.

“I wish these positive feelings would rub off on the community,” he said.

The figs, fruits and communion that break the fast at day’s end tasted especially sweet this year.

Some 100 worshipers gathered at sundown Thursday for the first iftar, or fast-breaking meal, of this Ramadan. The seller of an Antioch restaurant, empty in escrow, offered it as a temporary prayer hall Sunday, tripping off a mad dash to get insurance and permits in time for the celebration.

Walnut Creek restaurateur Misbah Khelid donated the food.

“Why not?” he said. “It’s a time of need.”

The 30 days of reflection and fasting take place in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, beginning at sunset after the first sighting of the new moon — or, in these times of technological advancement, when calculations pinpoint the appearance of the new moon.

For much of mosque president Mohammed Chaudry’s childhood, Ramadan fell during the summer months. But by the time he had become an adult, the fasting days had grown shorter. Now, they are long again.

Because Islam follows the lunar calendar, each year Ramadan falls 10 days earlier. Every third year, it moves back a month.

“It’s a justice system by God,” he said. If not for the lunar calendar, “people in the west would be condemned to a fast for 11 hours.”

The Quran directs the faithful to abstain from food, drink and other worldly pleasures as early in the morning as one “can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight,” and until darkness falls. The fast ends with a three-day festival called Id-al-Fitr. (MORE)


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