Muslim Soldiers and their families around the world will observe the Holy Month of Ramadan (the Month of Fasting), which begins this year on Friday and is observed continuously for 30 days.

After Ramadan ends, Eid-ul-Fitr (the Celebration of Fast Breaking) takes place on the first day of the succeeding month, the month Shaw'wal. The first day of Shaw'wal begins this year on or about Aug. 18.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It's also the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel in the year 610 A.D.

Accurate dates cannot be given beforehand since the Islamic calendar is a lunar one, and the actual date of observance is determined by viewing the crescent moon every month. There is a 10-day difference between the lunar and solar calendars each year.

Fasting during Ramadan is the fourth of the Five Pillars that Islam is based upon. It is obligatory for every healthy and able-bodied man and woman to observe the fast. This spiritual act increases the sense of unity and brotherhood for Muslims all over the world.

Ramadan is the month in which every day is a day of fasting. The period of fasting is from dawn, approximately one hour before sunrise, until just after sunset. During these hours, one may not eat or drink.

Muslims believe that fasting is an act of pure submission to God's command, which is given in the Qur'an. Fasting has many benefits, but its true significance is to develop a sense of complete obedience to the one who created all people and gave them physical and spiritual needs and the means to fulfill those needs.

While many benefits to a person's health come through fasting, such as the elimination of fatty substances from the blood and a decrease in the harmful activity of intestinal microbes and uric acid, it should be emphasized that all these benefits are not the main objective of fasting.

Muslims fast solely because God commands them to do so as devout and obedient servants to his will and through his grace to learn self-restraint and discipline of morals that will ultimately benefit the total person.

At the completion of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr takes place. Eid is a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing for the fulfillment of the obligations of fasting according to God's command. On the morning of Eid, at some time after sunrise and before midday, a special congregational prayer is offered, followed by a sermon from the imam of the community.

A period of marked joy and happiness follows the prayers, with a large feast and festival given sometime during the day. The celebration continues with related festivities for three days.

This year, Muslim Soldiers and family members will meet in various locations throughout the world for the purpose of daily fast-breaking, or Iftar, and congregational prayers.

Each weekend throughout Ramadan, a special Iftar program will be held at various mosques and military installations.

We pray for those who will fast -- as well as those who have the intention to fast but cannot due to various exemptions from fasting -- that all may successfully complete the prescribed period, and gain the greatest of rewards in this life and the hereafter.

The Fort Meade Islamic community has a designated room (Room 120) at Argonne Hills Chapel Center on Rockenbach Road for daily prayers during Ramadan and Jummah services.

For more information, call Chad Jones at 301-677-1301 or 240-328-4103.

Page last updated Fri July 20th, 2012 at 10:38