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Adult Muslims all over the world are required by their faith to fast for one month out of the year from sunrise to sunset. This month is called Ramadan. KSMU’s Shane Franklin has more on the holiday’s significance in the Ozarks.
Jack Llewellyn, professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University, says the main reason Muslims celebrate Ramadan is to honor the month in which the revelation of the Quran began; Muslims believe God revealed the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed through the angel Gabriel.
“Muhammad began to receive revelations from God around the year 610 [CE] when he was around 40 years old, and continued to receive revelations from God, or what Muslims regard as revelations from God, over the course of the rest of his life, so for more than 20 years, but it started in the month of Ramadan,” explained Llewellyn.
Muslims follow a lunar calendar, so each year Ramadan moves back 11 days on the solar calendar. Ramadan begins today, so this year Muslims in the Northern Hemisphere will be abstaining from food and water during the hottest days of the year.
Mohammed Bajsair is a biomedical engineering student at MSU. He says it is easy to fast for Ramadan while back in Saudi Arabia, but in Missouri, he says it is just a touch more challenging.
“In my country it is kind of easier. Nobody is smoking, nobody is drinking around you around you, but here only Muslims are fasting, so teachers will drink and will smoke. It’s hard to fast all day,” admitted Bajsair.
When he does break the fast, for any reason, he says he must fast an additional day at the end of Ramadan, for each day his fast was broken.
This year specifically is harder than most, says Bajsair, considering that Ramadan falls during the summer heat.
Bajsair says that in his home country people will take a break during the day and relax in the coolness of their homes. This year though, he has classes from 8am to 6pm, and is influenced by those around him not observing Ramadan. He said while this makes it hard, it is all the more rewarding. For Bajsair, he says Ramadan is a big deal, a holy month; time spent becoming closer to God.
“We believe God is in the seventh sky, but in Ramadan he becomes in the first sky. If you ask for forgiveness, God will reply to that, and he will forgive you. It is a month of prayer, a month where you will feel relieved of anything,” said Bajsair.
Ramadan ends this year on the evening of August 7th, and will be marked by Eid al-Fitr, the customary breaking of the fast celebration with friends and family.