Muslim Soldiers celebrate Eid al-Fitr
August 26, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Soldiers at Fort Jackson celebrated Eid al-Fitr last week, an event that marks the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan and the start of a feast that lasts up to three days in some countries.
At Fort Jackson, the celebration is much more modest.
About a dozen men and women, most of whom are in Basic Combat Training, gathered last Thursday in a small classroom at the Main Post Chapel for prayer. Afterward, they joined each other for a meal, bringing an end to the fasting of Ramadan.
Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the framework of the Muslim life.
"In Muslim countries, it's a huge ceremony," said Spc. Aziz Shansab, of the 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception). "But here, we're just a few people, because some are participating in training and can't come. But it's really important for us."
During the 30 days prior to Eid al-Fitr, Muslims are discouraged from eating and drinking during the daylight hours, a custom with some flexibility, said Omar Shaheed, the imam who led last week's prayer service.
"The celebration of Eid culminates a month of fasting, wherein the faithful have spent their time praying and beseeching God for forgiveness and mercy," Shaheed said. "In basic training, you might not have been able to fast every day like you wanted to. But the rule for that is that you have a whole year to make up the things that you missed. Remember -- the fasting benefits the one who's fasting."
During the prayer service, a new Soldier with several weeks left to go in Basic Combat Training declined to pray, at first.
"I don't know how to pray," he told the group. Away from home for the first time, he said his thoughts were on his family.
The others encouraged him to join in, telling the Soldier he would learn quickly.
"Eid is a time when the entire Muslim community comes together to share in each other's joys and blessings, and to lessen the burden of those who may be suffering," Shaheed told last week's prayer group. "Because, as believers, we seek God's forgiveness for our sins ... the sins we've done knowingly, and the sins we've done unknowingly."