HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Last week, the month of Ramadan began, the holiest month of the year for practicing Muslims. Here in Huntsville and north Alabama, Ramadan observations are underway and those who practice Islam are welcoming questions and participation from non-Muslims.
According to the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year and is celebrated as the month in which the prophet Mohammed received the first of the revelations that make up the Quran. During this time, practicing Muslims abstain from food, drink (including water) and marital relations from dawn until dusk. The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and remind them of those less fortunate.
Imam Sheikh Ragab, leader of the Huntsville Islamic Center says Ramadan is observed as “purification for our soul. It is an act of worship to express obedience to God.” The Imam also says that it is a time for reflection.
There are about 3.3 million Muslims in the United States and a recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that 80-percent of Muslims fast during Ramadan. Fasting is considered obligatory in Islam, although there are exceptions for children, the elderly, the sick, those traveling and women who are pregnant, nursing among other health conditions.
The day starts early with many eating before dawn and then prayer. After sunset, the fast may be broken in a big communal meal called ‘Iftar.’ The Huntsville Islamic Center says there is food every day and they welcome the larger community including non-Muslims to join. “We want people to get to know our community, to get to know our culture,” the Imam said in part. “We’re trying to fix the misconception in the media by inviting people to see our community.”
Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr.
If you are curious about the observance of Ramadan or want to get to know the members of the north Alabama community who practice Islam, the Huntsville Islamic Center says all are welcome to the breaking of the fast after sundown. You can contact them at (256) 919-4478 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.