AP NEWS

Holy month of Ramadan under way

May 6, 2019

To Muslim residents of The Woodlands, Monday, May 6, marks one of the most important time periods of the Islamic faith: the holy month of Ramadan, when Islamic worshippers fast from sunrise to sundown each day.

Local Imam Rihabi Mohamed Rihabi, who is the imam at The Woodlands Al-Ansar Islamic Center and a professor at the Lone Star College System, joined a local Islamic family to host an informational dinner where Rihabi explained the background, traditions of the holy month.

Ramadan, Rihabi said, is the fourth pillar of Islam and is celebrated in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During the month, adults and children who have passed puberty will engage in daily fasting from sunrise to sunset — during which time they refrain from not only eating and drinking.

“(Ramadan) is not a new thing in Islam, it is what people used to do. It is an act of deep personal worship. The goal is to be a righteous person,” Rihabi said. “We believe if (a person) follows (the guidelines), he will become after Ramadan a more righteous person…you will be like an angel living on this Earth.”

There are exceptions to whom must participate in Ramadan, he noted, including exceptions for pregnant women who may not be strong enough to fast, mothers who are breastfeeding, children who have not reached puberty yet, and anyone who may be sick or hospitalized, or who may be traveling.

“Allah said, all of the deeds of man are for himself, except fasting, which is for me. And I shall reward it myself,” Rihabi said. “(During Ramadan) we build control of ourselves … there is a huge reward for fasting. It is a month of training, practicing and fighting evil desires.”

The process of Ramadan is considered a healthy activity, too, Rihabi added, because the fasting often times leads to weight loss, lower blood pressure and helps by improving digestion.

“It is good for our body, it renews the blood. When then body refrains from food and drink for 15 hours, the body will use the fat (for energy),” he said. “A lot of people lose weight during Ramadan. It helps build the character of human beings … not to show you are pious, but to be pious because we are fulfilling the rules of the almighty. It is for our own benefit.”

One of the main tenets of Ramadan and the fasting that is done is the element of self control from bad urges, Rihabi explained. He described the giving up of food, drink and sexual actions as “training for the next 11 months,” because the goal of Ramadan is to build character and self control under the guidelines of the Quran.

Rihabi said the month of fasting is a way to spiritually “X-ray” a person’s life.

“Ramadan is a good time to introspect whether or not your life is being led according to the Quran and Sunnah. It is an exercise in improving the self and setting goals for the present and the future,” he said. “This month should make us reflect on the endless bounties that God has bestowed on us and thank Him profusely for the same. It is also time for Tawbah (repentance with a pledge not to repeat) for the past sins.”

Each day of Ramadan is broken down into segments, with pre-sunrise meals called suhoor and then after sunset, iftar — which is the breaking of the daily fast, Rihabi added.

“Prophet Muhammad recommended to eat suhoor. This is a meal we take early in the morning … preparation for fasting because God doesn’t like us to suffer. He gives us tools and tips to performing fasting in a safe and easy way,” Rihabi said. “Iftar is breaking the fast at sunset. When sunset is done, we have to break our fast.”

Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and during Ramadan, there is an extra sixth prayer called tarawih, Rihabi said. During the month, it is also highly recommended that all Muslims read and recite the entire Quran, which consists of 114 chapters, 30 parts and an average of 600 to 700 pages, depending on how the Quran was printed — some include text in both English and Arabic.

After Ramadan ends, there is a festival — called Eid — that is a celebration of the previous month of fasting and includes large meals, prayers and congregational activities.

The spiritual aspect of Ramadan is the most critical element of the month, Rihabi said. He also invited anyone who is interested in learning about Ramadan, Islam or other aspects of Muslim beliefs and culture to visit the center. Interested parties can email Rihabi at Woodlandsimam@gmail.com.

“Allah commanded us to share peace and love among all people. Ramadan is a good time for all Muslims to understand the message of Allah,” Rihabi said. “A message of peace and love. Mercy for all mankind is a message of the Quran.”

jeff.forward@chron.com