Not knowing a lot about Ramadan, I looked up some information to better understand the Islamic holy days. This may be helpful for others too. If you are a Ramadan expert, feel free to skip to the quotes.
Today, June 6 marks the first full day of Ramadan for 2016. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Every day during this month, Muslims around the world spend the daylight hours in a complete fast. However, it about much more than refraining from food and drink. It is a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-discipline and sacrifice. It commemorates the giving of the Quran to Mohamad, and is meant to be a time of rededicating oneself to Islam. There is also extensive reading from the Quran this month. Someone has called it a kind of spiritual detox. People eat before sunrise, and get together with others after sunset for a meal called iftar, and many see this as a time of community building. For those adults whose health will not allow fasting, they may give money to charity to offset the fasting, which is meant to be enough to feed a poor person each day.
This is a very spiritual time for Muslims, so if you have friends or coworkers celebrating the Ramadan fast, be especially gracious and understanding to them this month. Especially don’t offer them food!
For those of us who are not Muslim, if we are aware of this spiritual month for them, perhaps it will make us a little more aware of those suffering at this time: of the poor, the dispossessed, the ill, the homeless, and other unfortunates.
What President Obama said this year: As Muslim Americans celebrate the holy month, I am reminded that we are one American family. I stand firmly with Muslim American communities in rejection of the voices that seek to divide us or limit our religious freedoms or civil rights. I stand committed to safeguarding the civil rights of all Americans no matter their religion or appearance. I stand in celebration of our common humanity and dedication to peace and justice for all.
Quotes about fasting (note: several of these are by Tariq Ramadan, who is a Swiss academic, philosopher and writer. He is the professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford)
Fasting is, first and foremost, an exercise for identifying and managing adversity in all its forms. With faith, in full conscience, fasting calls women and men to an extra degree of self-awareness.–Tariq Ramadan
The philosophy of fasting calls upon us to know ourselves, to master ourselves, and to discipline ourselves the better to free ourselves. To fast is to identify our dependencies, and free ourselves from them.–Tariq Ramadan
We must master our egoism, and through this mastery, step outside ourselves and educate ourselves in giving. Fasting requires that we rediscover all that is alive around us, and reconcile ourselves with our environment. Tariq Ramadan
Instead of looking outside of ourselves and counting potential enemies, fasting summons us to turn our glance inward, and to take the measure of our greatest challenge: the self, the ego, in our own eyes and as others see us.–Tariq Ramadan
A fast is not a hunger strike. Fasting submits to God’s commands.–Edwin Louis Cole
Most cultures traditionally link food and spirituality directly with periodic restrictions and celebrations punctuating the year. Abstinence from particular foods or full-on fasting is part of many religious traditions and holidays.–Marcus Samuelsson
Periodic fasting can help clear up the mind and strengthen the body and the spirit.–Ezra Taft Benson
By fasting, the body learns to obey the soul; by praying the soul learns to command the body.–William Secker
The purpose of fasting is to loosen to some degree the ties which bind us to the world of material things and our surroundings as a whole, in order that we may concentrate all our spiritual powers upon the unseen and eternal things.–Ole Hallesby
The light of the world will illuminate within you when you fast and purify yourself. ~Mahatma Gandhi
Happy is he who has fasted in sincerity and truth! Happy he whose humbled heart has expanded in love!–Alexandre Vinet
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