By Caitlin Kenney, Fort SillAugust 2, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (2 Aug. 2012) -- Would you be willing to give up food and drink during this heat? Could you abstain from foul language or intimate relations with your partner? How about if it was for charity or even better, your faith?
Muslims around the world are currently fasting during the ninth Islamic holy month of Ramadan that started July 20. From dawn till dusk for about 30 days, Muslims fast and avoid temptations while concentrating on their faith and charity.
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Marason, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery at Fort Sill, converted to Islam at the age of 19.
"I studied different religions to find out what they taught and Islam is a religion that's very similar to Christianity," he said. "So most of what it taught I already knew from Christianity, but there was a little bit stricter monotheism to it which appealed to me because that was what the crux of my questions were in my faith."
Ramadan is one of the holiest months for Muslims because they believe that Allah began to reveal the scriptures of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad during this time. It took 23 years for the entire Quran to be revealed to Muhammad, taught to his followers through oral memorization and then later written down. The text has never been altered, believing the Quran to be the direct words of Allah.
Imam Farooq Al-Attar at the Lawton Islamic Center said Ramadan also marks the beginning of what is now the Islamic faith.
"The word 'Sawm' [See-yam] which means 'fasting' in Arabic, means 'refine' as you define it, and I believe Ramadan is exactly that. You refine yourself," Al-Attar said.
It is believed during this month the rewards of fasting, prayer, and charity are multiplied and Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran. Having an entire month to focus on fasting, prayer and meditation,
Marason said he believes that Ramadan is a time to focus on his faith.
"Ramadan, for me personally, is a time to recalibrate yourself. It's more about getting closer to God. It's about renewing that connection and that relationship with God. It helps you to purify yourself physically as well as spiritually. It reorients you to what is important," he said.
Every night after sunset after the fourth of five prayers said throughout the day, the fast is broken in a meal called the Iftar. Traditionally, it is first broken by eating three dates and some water and then after the prayer the family or community sits down for a meal.
Even during Ramadan, military personnel continue their regular work through the day. In 1996 at age 21, Marason joined the Army and has fasted for Ramadan throughout his career.
"It's a little hard, especially depending on the level of physical activity that you are required to do," said Marason. "[In 2009] when I was fasting for Ramadan, I was actually in Iraq ... so dealing with the heat and the 14 hour days and things like that can be challenging, but you have to be smart about it."
Marason recommends that Soldiers fasting for Ramadan should make sure they are well-hydrated before they start the day, moderate their physical activity as much as possible, and most importantly make sure they have at least one person who understands their current condition.
"Normally I let at least one person know, whether it's my lieutenant or another battle buddy, that I'm going to be fasting, so [they] keep an eye out just in case I start exhibiting certain signs of dehydration or fatigue or anything else like that."
When asked how Ramadan is important to him as a Soldier, Marason says its requirements for discipline and a regimented day work well for him as a Soldier.
"Ramadan helps you to build self-discipline, it really does. As a Soldier, I think that's really important to have self discipline so it's a good training tool as far as that goes ... it does help me out as far as being a Soldier."