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Mosque to welcome the public

November 18, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

The blessings of Ramadan will be shared with people of all faiths when The Islamic Society of Western Maryland opens its mosque to the general public Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m.

"It is a time of obedience and respect for Allah and also for personal reflection," said Dr. Shahab Siddiqui, a Hagerstown physician and one of the organizers of the open house.

Food will be served, so those who plan to attend are encouraged to call ahead so organizers can make sure there will be enough.

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Ramadan is a month-long opportunity for spiritual enhancement and soul redemption within the Islamic community. Part of the observance calls for fasting - no food or water - during daylight hours.

This year, Ramadan began around Oct. 26 and continues for 30 days into November.

"Part of what you are doing is restraining yourself so you can better understand how some people are hungry all the time," Siddiqui said.

Ramadan also is a good time to use self control to break bad habits such as smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages. Siddiqui said focusing more on the hereafter instead of worldly pleasures is one of Ramadan's goals.

When Siddiqui came to Hagerstown in 1987, the Islamic community consisted of five or six physicians who wanted to build a center where they and others of the Muslim faith could gather to celebrate their religious beliefs.

"We are now about 50 families from around the Tri-State area," Siddiqui said. The Islamic center in Hagerstown is at 2036 Day Road, off Dual Highway.

Siddiqui said he and his wife, Noor, and their three children resolve not to do a lot of things they feel are unnecessary during the observance of Ramadan.

"We sit together at the evening dinner and reflect and pray before we eat," he said.

Siddiqui, 46, was born in Pakistan and came to the United States as an English-speaking physician. His office is at 19414 C Leitersburg Pike, Hagerstown.

"I was in training in Chicago when a retiring doctor in Hagerstown posted an ad for a practice for sale," Siddiqui said. His brother was living in Rockville, Md., so Siddiqui thought it would be a great opportunity to be close to family and to raise his family in small-town America.

Siddiqui said all faiths should blend together when possible, hence the idea for the open house.

Ramadan is a time to pay more attention to prayer and reading the Quran, the Muslim holy book. The very young and the sick are exempt from fasting, he said.

"It is a whole lifestyle. You follow the guidance of Allah in everything you do, seeking him out for his moral teachings," Siddiqui said. "We see this as a blessing, not an obligation."

Through the year, followers of Islam worship on Fridays.

"We also pray five times a day, either at the mosque or where we happen to be," Siddiqui said. "I keep a prayer rug here at the office."

The historical significance of Ramadan is the belief that it was in that month that the Quran was revealed to Allah.

"The children enjoy the celebration of Ramadan. My 12-year-old daughter often wants to go with me to the mosque when I go to pray and I encourage that," Siddiqui said.

For more information on the open house, call Pastor Ed Poling at 301-733-3565; call Siddiqui at 301-791-2510 or send e-mail to Siddiqui at shahabnoor@hotmail.com.

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