Unit Ministry Team hosts Ramadan fast-breaking service
August 20, 2013
FORT HOOD, Texas -The unit ministry team for the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, held a Ramadan fast-breaking service for more than 60 Soldiers and Family members at "The Ohana Place" 19th Street Chapel here, Aug. 6.
Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic year, is a monthlong fast where Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink, to include water, from 90 minutes before sunrise until sunset.
During the fast-breaking service, known as an Iftar in the Islamic faith, Maj. Khallid Shabazz, an Alexandria, La., native and chaplain for 1st ACB, broke the fasting with a large celebration.
"Last night we had a big feast and gift exchange in celebration of the last day of fasting," said Shabazz, an Islamic leader known as an Imam, and one of only four Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military. "It was akin to Christmas for those of the Christian faith."
For Muslims, enduring the physical rigors of fasting is an opportunity to evaluate their spiritual lives in the light of Islamic teaching, said Shabazz.
"Fasting increases our awareness of God and self-restraint," Shabazz said. "Abstaining from something so natural such as food and water allows ourselves to gain a greater respect for those who suffer on a daily basis."
Sgt. Jessica Covello, a San Antonio native and 1st ACB chaplain assistant, said she attempted to fast for Ramadan to fully understand the challenges Muslim Soldiers face throughout the month-long Islamic occurrence.
"I tried to fast and only made it to 10:30 a.m. the first day," Covello said. "At that point, I had to chug a bottle of water. Fasting is much more difficult than you think, especially as a Soldier out in the heat."
Covello said the experience opened her eyes and gave her a new appreciation for those who meet the challenges of going without subsistence for upwards of 16 hours.
"I'm very impressed by these Soldiers," Covello said. "They truly are disciplined and I have nothing but respect for them."
Muslims not only abstain from ingesting food and liquid throughout the day, but they also refrain from a variety of other actions as well, said Shabazz.
"During the Holy Month of Ramadan, we abstain from obscenity, intercourse throughout the day, and all things that take us off of our spiritual track," Shabazz said. "Fasting in Islam does not just consist of refraining from eating and drinking, but from every kind of selfish desire and wrong-doing."
Ramadan has three significant objectives: to promote nearness to God, increase self-control, and encourage charity for those in need, Shabazz explained.
"Charity and generosity are especially urged during Ramadan," Shabazz said. "We learn to give, and not to take. The deprivation of fasting makes us sympathize with the suffering of others, gives us a desire to alleviate it, and makes us remember the blessings of life which we normally take for granted."
As the brigade chaplain for 1st ACB, Shabazz said Ramadan echoes all the values the UMT strives to promote to its Soldiers on a daily basis.
"Ramadan is a back end to what we strive to do every day," Shabazz said. "We serve people of all faiths every day; that's our mission. Whatever programs we put together, they're all to meet the commander's philosophy of taking care of Soldiers."