Inside the mosque: Anniston Islamic Center builds bridges at open house

Men stand in unison for afternoon prayer during an open house at the Anniston Islamic Center. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

The Anniston Muslim community started this year’s fasting month of Ramadan today. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar called Hijra (Migration). All the religious events and holidays of Islam are celebrated according to the lunar calendar, which started when Prophet Muhammad was forced to migrate from Makkah to Madinah in the year 622 CE.

In this month, all the adult and healthy Muslim men and women fast. The concept of fasting in Islam is to abstain from any food, drink and sexual act from a little before sunrise until sunset.

After sunset, all the restrictions are lifted until the next morning. This goes on throughout the month of Ramadan.

A very early morning meal called “Suhoor” is highly recommended by Prophet Muhammad in order to have enough energy for the activities of a normal working day.

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the four pillars of Islam. It covers spiritual, physical and mental aspects of worship, of which the spiritual is dominant.

A fasting person avoids drinking and eating and controls other desires for the sake of God alone. There is no one in between him/her and God. A fasting person will avoid eating a delicious meal or drinking a chilled drink in the fridge on a hot summer day because he/she cares about God. Imagine how much God will care about and love that person.

It was in this holy month of Ramadan that the Prophet Muhammad received the Holy Scripture of God, the Quran, through Archangel Gabriel.

Every night of this month, a special prayer is held in which recitation of the Holy Quran takes place at Anniston Islamic Center.

The following command of the Holy Quran is followed by every Muslim: “It was the month of Ramadan in which the Quran was [first] bestowed as guidance unto man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Hence, whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it; but he that is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days. God wills that you shall have ease, and does not will you to suffer hardship; but [He desires] that you complete the number [of days required], and that you extol God for His having guided you aright, and that you render your thanks [unto Him]. And if my servants ask you about Me – behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me: let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way.” (2:185-187)

The social aspect of the fasting is also very strong. During the fast, a believer is not only supposed to exercise control over hunger, thirst and sexual desire but also over the bad use of the tongue. Telling lies, backbiting, cursing or using foul language make the fasting rewardless, and the purpose of pleasing God fails.

Prophet Muhammad has been very clear on this aspect of fasting; he directed us by saying, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, God is not in need of his leaving his food and drink” (Bukhari)

If someone else is trying to misbehave, a fasting person will try his/her best not to get involved in arguments or fights, but instead show patience and self-control. The prophetic directions say, “When anyone of you is observing fast, he/she should neither indulge in obscene language nor should raise voice; and if anyone reviles or tries to quarrel, he/she should say: ‘I am fasting.’” (Bukhari)

This world of ours is full of the hungry and the homeless. What would be the feelings of a poor person to whom no food is available for a whole day or even more than a day? Only a fasting person can put himself/herself in the shoes of that poor person.

After staying hungry and thirsty all day, a chilled drink and a hot meal at sunset time give a feeling that these drinks and hot meals that we have every day, several times, are really very great blessings of God.

This training program of taming and controlling ourselves every year for a period of one month helps elevate our spirituality, moral and ethical values, and social conduct and behavior.

Muhammad Haq is imam of the Anniston Islamic Center.