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Wiping the slate clean

The holy Muslim month of RAMADAN, which begins Sept. 23 this year, is a chance to be forgiven.

The holy Muslim month of RAMADAN, which begins Sept. 23 this year, is a chance to be forgiven.

September 19, 2006|by NABELA ENAM

Imagine if you had a chance to erase all your past mistakes, even the really bad ones. That's what the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is about.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calender, which is considered to be a great and blessed month by Muslims.

During this month, Muslims (with few exceptions) must fast from dawn until dusk. Fasting requires abstaining from consuming food and drink (meaning all liquids including water and no alcoholic beverages because Muslims aren't allowed to drink that anyway).

But fasting is not limited to meals only. Lying, backbiting, spreading rumors, giving false testimony and other sins are not allowed - though we are supposed to be avoiding those at all times.

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Muslims believe that all their previous sins will be forgiven if they fast in the month of Ramadan with full faith and proper devotion. I was told that if one does not give up lying and acting on lies during fasting, then there is no need for him to give up food and drinks as he or she might get nothing from fasting except hunger and thirst. Clearly the moral dimension is a very important aspect of fasting.

Those who are not required to fast include children who have not reached puberty, the permanently ill, the elderly who are too weak, and the mentally challenged and a few others.

Every morning before sunrise, we eat a meal called sahoor and remain without food or water until the sun is completely past the horizon. At that time we break our fast with a meal called iftar. There is one particular night in Ramadan when we celebrate God revealing the Islamic holy book, the Quran. This is called Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, which is better than thousand months.

I remember being in class last year during Ramadan. While fasting, my stomach could be quite an annoyance. During tests, everyone would be silently answering questions, when all of a sudden my stomach would start rumbling.

Lunch break at school was always a fun time, but not during Ramadan. It always seems so much longer than usual, just waiting for everyone to finish eating.

On returning home, I would either take a nap or find something other than homework to do until it was time to break my fast. Sometimes I would help my mom prepare the iftar, but seeing the food right in front of me was rather tempting. However, if you break your fast before sunset intentionally, you have to fast an additional 60 days! So I usually stick to watching TV.

I always look forward to mealtime at sunset because I know the food is going to be delicious, although almost anything would taste good when you haven't eaten all day. Actually, the food that my mom prepares during Ramadan is special and different from other times. My favorite item is the drink she makes with orange sherbet and milk.

Fasting during Ramadan helps me develop compassion for less fortunate people in the world who often go hungry. I also learn to control my anger, and be just and truthful. To me, Ramadan is a month of patience, a reward of patience being paradise.

When the crescent moon is sighted, usually twenty-nine or thirty days after fasting begins, the end of Ramadan arrives. One of the most important Islamic holidays called Eid al-Fitr, or the Festival of the Fast Breaking, is celebrated the next day.

On Eid day, we give gifts to our friends and relatives. The celebration begins with a special Eid prayer and sermon and continues with lunch and dinner parties as well as open houses. Another fun part is that we get to miss school!

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