Source: Democrat and Chronicle
The Muslim celebration of Ramadan, a season of penance and purification, started on the weekend of Sept. 23-24. Muslims fast from dawn to sunset for the month of Ramadan. At the conclusion of their fasting season comes Idul Fitr, one of the two biggest feasts in Muslim society.
When fasting, Muslims start their day by having early breakfast (sahur) about 4 a.m. They go about their regular activities, except they are required to abstain from eating, drinking, having sex and smoking. At sunset, they traditionally break their fast with something sweet, traditionally dates.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is required of those who have reached puberty and are physically and mentally healthy. Children, pregnant, menstruating and/or breast-feeding women, sick people, and those who are traveling are exempt from this exercise. If a person finds it impossible to fast, he or she instead may give away some food/money equivalent to what he or she would eat daily.
However, if fasting merely were physical deprivation, it would only leave Muslims with hunger, insincerity and greediness. The deepest meaning of fasting relates closely to the human embodiment of suffering and poverty. It cultivates love for the needy, here and elsewhere in the world, and it motivates Muslims to give back to the community. In this sense, fasting instills virtues common to Americans, especially religious freedom, self-control, volunteerism, tolerance and hope for the future.