Ramadan means more than fasting

Can you imagine yourself waking up at four o’clock in the morning to drink some water and eat a light breakfast? Can you then imagine yourself going without food or drink until the sun sets? To top it all off, can you imagine yourself doing this during finals week?!

This is exactly what Muslim students on GW’s campus and around the world will be doing, starting Dec. 7. For us, that day doesn’t only mean the end of fall semester classes (except for those teachers intent on using their `make-up days’). More importantly, it is the start of a most beloved season in the Islamic calendar, it is the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic year (which is based upon the lunar calendar). During this month, Muslims are obligated to fast every day from sunup to sundown, abstaining from certain physical actions which are permissible at any other time, such as drinking, eating and having intimate relations with their spouses.

At the same time that we hold back from satiating our physical desires, we are also taught to restrain ourselves from harming others with our hands, tongues and selves. Throughout the year we try to keep our tongues from slandering others, from cursing and from spreading hatred. But it is in this month that we make a special effort to refrain from such harms.

The Prophet Muhammad taught us that there is no use for someone to fast, if all he achieves from his fasting is feeling hunger and thirst. We must learn that just as we are able to abstain from things which are normally OK in life (food and drink), we must learn to abstain from things that are not normally OK (slander, back biting, etc.).

While Ramadan is a month of worship (you will easily find Muslims spending their nights in prayer to God), it is not a month of forsaking this world. We are not taught to sleep in our beds during the day (when we’re hungry) and worship God all night. We are not taught to throw our finals in the trash and ask our professors for an extension until the year 2000. We are not taught to sue our bosses at work for not giving us an extra month of paid vacation.

But we are taught to refocus our goals in life, to realize that life isn’t about biochemistry 101 or political science 3 and that there is so much more meaning to living than the external, materialistic elements with which we constantly deal. We are taught to free ourselves from our physical desires and to not be enslaved by our bodily wants.

So as you get ready to kick off reading week, think about the different aspects to life.

-The writer, a biology major, is a member of the Education Committee of the Muslim Students’ Association.

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