Ramadan Underway For Students

Richard Duboc

On August 10th the sight of the crescent moon in the evening sky signaled the beginning of Ramadan, an important time of contemplation, fasting, and celebration in the Islamic faith. Around the world over 1.5 billion Muslims are fasting from sun up to sun down atoning for their sins and professing their faith. The 30 days of fasting will culminate in a celebratory festival known as the Eid ul-Fitr in which the faithful will be able to feast and give thanks for their blessings.
Here on campus hundreds of students, faculty, and staff are also taking part in the celebration of Ramadan. They are rising before the sun for a morning prayer called the Fajr and to eat a small meal which will be their last until nightfall.
Student organizations such as the Saudi Arabian Students Association are meeting off campus to hold the Iftar in which the daylong fast is broken just before night time prayers. During the summer weekly Jumu’ah prayers, which are usually held Friday afternoon at the Old Union, have been suspended.
Fasting during Ramadan is very much like the fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday for Christians and Yom Kippur for Jews. In the Quran it states, “O you who believe! Sawm [Fasting] is prescribed for you.” Abstaining from food, drink, and sin is a way for Muslims to show their devotion and remind themselves of what is important.
Dr. Farid Younos, a CSUEB Professor of Human Developmental Studies, asserts, “in a state of fasting, man is constantly in struggle to polish his inner soul and discipline his outer actions.” For Dr. Younos, fasting is more than simply not eating. It entails abstaining from “ill thinking”, “gossip”, and “places that displease God.” Muslims are also expected to carry this practice of self discipline into the next eleven months of the year.
For those that may think that Ramadan is a somber affair which contrasts with more feel good holidays, they should remember that abstinence is a personal decision made out of one’s love to God. Although fasting and prayer is a personal act, the Iftar and Eid ul-Fitr are times when family and friends gather to celebrate what they have and enjoy each other’s presence.
Along with celebration, Muslims redirect their attention to those in need who go without food and other essentials all year long. One of The Five Pillars of Islam known as the Zakat requires a tithing of around 2.5% of one’s income.
Devout Muslims are always required to pray five times a day, but on Ramadan prayer takes on a special meaning. In fact there is even a new iPhone “app” which will alert users when it is time to pray.
Nationally, this season of Ramadan has been met with controversy over President Barak Obama’s decision last week to lend his support to a plan which calls for a cultural center to be built close to the site of ‘Ground Zero’. In May, a New York City community board voted by a margin of 29 to 1 in favor of the plan. The President explained his decision, which purposely coincided with the start of Ramadan, by proclaiming, “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable”. Detractors of the controversial Muslim community center include the Anti-Defamation League and ex-Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin who asked via Facebook if it is appropriate to, “build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3000 people?”
It is often that in times of trial and sacrifice we are reminded of what we have. Ramadan is a time for Muslims at Cal State East Bay and beyond to strengthen their faith and reflect on all that is good with the world.