Valencia’s Muslim students observing Islamic holy month


By Shaneece Dixon
Valencia Voice

To many Muslims, Ramadan is known as the holy month. Considered a fundamental aspect of the five pillars, it is a time for spiritual purification consisting of fasting, self-sacrifice, and prayers. Fasting during this month is one of the pillars of Ramadan. The five pillars are basic duties that all Muslims must complete to rejuvenate and strengthen their faith. These are the five pillars that all Muslims must come to realize: The first pillar is believing in the oneness of God. The second pillar is prayer. The third is alms (giving a percentage of your net worth to charity). The fourth is fasting in the month of Ramadan and the fifth is the pilgrimage to Mecca.

These are certain things that are symbolic of what has been written in the holy book of the Quran (Koran).
For every year, Muslims follow the Hijiri (lunar) calendar which follows the new moon, to find when the first day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the calendar will fall. The objective for Ramadan is to teach Muslims humility, making them thankful for what they have been given.

“You’re supposed to feel like a poor person,” said Zia Ansari, who is celebrating Ramadan this month. “It teaches you to be humble.”

From sunrise to sundown (approximately from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.), those Muslims who are participating must fast, which means not eating, in order to give themselves physical and spiritual purification. In order to fast during this time, one must be physically able to do so, excluding those who are sick with an illness or even feel sick from not eating, and those who are elderly. However, it is normal to break a fast by eating a date.

The typical diet during Ramadan is divided into two groups: Sahari, which are foods eaten before dawn, and Iftar, which are foods eaten after sunset. Among the several foods that Muslims eat during the Ramadan holiday include halaal (which is a type of meat), dates and figs, fereni starch pudding, lentil soup, and pita bread.

During Ramadan, families come together to pray at least five times a day from the Taraweeh, which comes from an Arabic word meaning to rest and relax. They are special prayers that are long recitations from the Quran.

“Ramadan makes you more aware of yourself, and it makes you thankful for God,” Ansari said.

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate what is called the Festival of Eid-ul-Fitr (Festival of Fast Breaking), where everyone goes to the mosques to attend a special community prayer service, similiar to that of Christmas or Easter. Though the Festival lasts for three days, the main festivities are held on the first day.

People not only donate money to charities but some also visit their families and friends and exchange gifts, or what is called a blessed Eid. For the Festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, the foods that are typically eaten include: chicken biyrani, figs with goat cheese, sambousa, and chickpeas.

“A family tradition of ours is to go to our oldest uncle’s house where the elder relatives give money to the kids,” Ansari said.

Students and workers take time and work off whenever they can to celebrate this holiday.
In Islamic countries, where both Ramadan and the Festival are recognized as holidays, schools get out early.

The holiday’s purpose isn’t just to make one humble and thankful for what they have but also cites communal and familial values as a key part to living a peaceful and happy life.