As you’re waking up at four o’clock in the morning to drink some water and eat a light breakfast, you begin cramming for that chemistry final exam later that morning. You then go without the pleasures of food or drink until dusk, and soon finals week has become an ultimate test of will, as much as skill.
This scenario has become familiar ground for the Muslim students at GW and around the world as the Holy Month of Ramadan began on Nov. 27. For us, Nov. 27 didn’t only mark the end of a short, semester break, but more importantly, it was the start of one of the most beloved seasons in the Islamic calendar, 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 required to fast every day from sunrise to sunset abstaining from certain physical actions permissible at any other time such as drinking, eating and having intimate relations with their spouses.
While Ramadan involves refraining from our physical desires, we are also taught how to prevent ourselves from harming others with our hands, tongues and selves. Although Muslims try to prevent their tongues from slandering others throughout the year by cursing or spreading hatred, it is in this month that we make a special effort to refrain from such behavior. 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. Therefore, we must learn that just as we are able to abstain from things that are normally accepted in life such as food and drink, we must learn to abstain from things that are not normally accepted, such as slander, backbiting and the like.
While Ramadan is a month of worship – you can easily find Muslims spending their nights in prayer to God – Islam does not require Muslims to forsake this world. We are not encouraged to sleep in our beds throughout the day and worship God all night. We are not taught to throw our finals in the trash and ask for extensions until 2001. We are not taught to sue our bosses at work for not giving us an entire month of paid vacation. Rather, we are taught to refocus our priorities in life, to realize that our existence is more than biochemistry or history. Ramadan offers Muslims a time to reflect upon that aspect of living that lies beyond everyday, materialistic components so that we may attain a higher level of spiritual consciousness, thereby developing a stronger character.
So as GW gets ready to wrap up the semester, each of us ought to take only a moment to think about those things that matter most in life: health, loved ones and for many of us, faith. Feel free to attend the Muslim Students Association’s free dinners held daily at sunset, that started Nov. 27 to break the fast together, as a collective student body.-The writer is majoring in criminal justice.