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Happy Ramadan! Ramadan Kareem!

Sam “breaking the fast” on the second evening of Ramadan with Dr. Wael Saykali and Dr. Safi and Eman Kaskas.

Celebrating my first Ramadan in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

In all three major Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) religious holidays play an important role in celebrating our faith in the God of Abraham. Here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I’ll be participating in my first Ramadan observance with my Muslim friends. There is an air of excitement as this holiday begins.

Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان‎ Ramaḍān; variations Persian: Ramazan‎; Urdu: Ramzān; Turkish: Ramazan) has arrived. It is being celebrated July 20th through August 18th. It is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days according to the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

Muslims around the world refrain from eating and drinking during the daylight hours. The thawab (spiritual rewards) of fasting are believed to be many, but during this special month, they are said to be multiplied. Muslims fast during this lunar month for the sake of demonstrating submission to God. They also offer more prayers and Qur’an recitations.

Families and friends enjoy Iftar meals and banquets 

Each evening at sunset, families and friends will gather for the fast-breaking meal (or “break-fast) known as Iftar. The meal starts with the eating of three dates — just as Muhammad used to do. Then it’s time for the Maghrib prayer, which is the fourth of the five daily Muslim prayers, after which the main meal is served.

Over time, Iftar has grown into large family dinners and even banquet festivals. This is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities, but may also occupy larger spaces at mosques or banquet halls, where a hundred or more may gather at a time.

High school students from Jeddah’s British International School unload more than one ton of food they collected to be distributed to poor immigrant families in their city.

Generosity and sacrificial giving

Charity is very important in Islam, and even more so during Ramadan. The zakat is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam; a fixed percentage required to be given by those with savings. The sadaqa is voluntary charity and is given above and beyond what is required from the obligation of zakat. Muslims believe that all good deeds are more handsomely rewarded during Ramadan than in any other month of the year. Consequently, many will choose this time to give a larger portion, if not all, of the zakat for which they are obligated to give. In addition, many will also use this time to give a larger portion of sadaqa in order to maximize the reward they believe will await them on the Day of Judgment.

In many Muslim countries, it is not uncommon to see people giving more food to the poor and the homeless, and even to see large public areas for the poor to come and break their fast. It is said that if a person helps a fasting person to break their fast, then they receive a reward for that fast, without diminishing the reward that the fasting person got for their fast.

Even in non-Muslim countries, no matter how small the Muslim population, a consistent increase in charitable donations to both fellow Muslims and non-Muslims occurs during these days. In the US, for example, many Muslim communities throughout the country, participate in contributing food, clothes and non-perishable food items to local food banks and homeless shelters.

Jeddah British International School students collected over a ton of food

Eman Kaskas with high schoolers from the British International School with some of the food that will be distributed to needy families during the 30-day Ramadan holiday.

The British International School of Jeddah offers the International Bachaluriate (IB) program—a high school college preparatory degree that is recognized around the world. An important part of the IB program is Creativity Action Service (CAS) similar to community service programs provided by many American high schools.  Students are required to do 150 hours of community service.

A major Ramadan “food drive” under the leadership of Eman Kaskas is a part of CAS’s program.  “I am always so touched by the community effort and the involvement of all the students including kindergarteners,” Eman says. “We have carried this out for the last 12 years. It keeps getting better year after year.”

This year students from Jeddah’s British International School collected more than ton of food that will be distributed during Ramadan to Jeddah’s poorer immigrant population.

Eman Kaskas, explains, “It’s my hope that these students will fully understand the message they are sending with their gifts.” She says, “It’s like a mustard seed that we are planting today, and I’m very grateful to know that we’re planting it in good soil.” She wants these students to remember when they have families of their own, that they have a responsibility to raise civicly-minded children who will make an important contribution to society.

Special days during Ramadan: Laylat al-Qadr and Eid ul-Fitr

Sometimes referred to as “the night of decree or measures,” Laylat al-Qadr is considered the most holy night of the Islamic year. Muslims believe that it is the night in which the Qur’an was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel.

The Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر‎, festivity of breaking the fast), sometimes spelled in English as Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month called Shawwal in Arabic. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted. This first day of Shawwal is called Eid ul-Fitr. Eid Ul-Fitr, may also be a reference towards the festive nature of having endured the month of fasting successfully and returning to the more natural disposition of being able to eat and drink.

The following is a children’s Ramadan video that explains the spiritual significance of this Muslim holiday. Muslim children celebrate Ramadan in much the same way Jewish and Christian children celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas.
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July 21, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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