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A time of great joy

October 04, 2005|By HIRA ZEB

Tuesday, Oct. 4, marks a very special day for people of the Islamic faith. All throughout the world, Muslims unite to celebrate this holy month of fasting and prayer, known as Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month on the Muslim calendar, and Muslims believe that this is the month in which the first revelation came down to the Prophet Muhammad via Angel Gabriel.

This month is taken to be a time for contemplation, prayer and abstinence. Every day in Ramadan, from dawn until sunset, Muslims do not eat, drink, smoke or engage in sexual relations.

Instead, this time should be spent in an extra effort to do good works, concentrate on the spiritual aspect of life, and strive to make oneself a better person.

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After "iftar'" the time at sunset when eating is permissible, it is not uncommon for families to visit one another and to bring gifts of food. In most communities, the local mosque organizes iftar, and an evening meal for the people.

The mosque in Hagerstown, called The Islamic Society of Western Maryland, holds this kind of event Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights during the month of Ramadan.

Every day of the year, Muslims are required to pray five times - at dawn, noon, in the afternoon, at sunset and in the evening. During Ramadan, special prayers, called Taraweeh (Night Prayer), take place after the last official prayer service for the day. Taraweeh prayer includes recitation of the Quran from memory and usually lasts for hours. By the time Ramadan has ended, the whole Quran will have been recited.

As the end of Ramadan approaches, excitement is always in the air, as kids and adults alike wait in anticipation of Eid-al Fitr. This is an official holiday in Islam, and at this time, gifts are exchanged and family and friends gather to pray and give thanks.

My family has always instilled my faith into my everyday life, and I have been brought up in a very close-knit mosque and community. The people who have supported me throughout my life have become like family, and are my brothers and sisters in faith. The friendships I have established are unbreakable ties that will last me a lifetime.

During Ramadan, our community is brought even closer together, as we arrive at the mosque several time a week for Taraweeh prayers, or for breaking fast and so on.

It has become a tradition for my friends and I to do a sort of "Secret Santa" deal, only it's aimed for the holiday of Eid, rather than Christmas. We pick names and shop secretly for that person. I must admit that within a few days, everyone has figured out who their secret gift-giver is. Despite this, our yearly tradition is comforting in its own way, and a great way to bring us closer together.

Ramadan also brings family closer. My mother is always shaking me awake before the sun rises and trying to get me to at least drink something before the time arrives when I cannot eat or drink for the day. My family spends a lot of time together in prayer and, of course, wwe share evening meals.

Ramadan is a vital part in every Muslim's life, and a time of great joy and happiness. For more information about Ramadan, or Islam in general, please go online to www.islamiccity.com.

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