Celebrating Ramadan in Lawrence

From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

President Bill Clinton was the first American President to recognize Ramadan by inviting Muslin leaders to the White House.  Since then, every succeeding president has continued this tradition.

The Five Pillars of Islam

Profession of Faith – Declare that Allah is the only god and Muhammad is his prophet

Prayer – 5 times each day

Zakat – (almsgiving) or social responsibility by contributing 2-1/2% of their income and possessions yearly to the poor in the community but if they have a relative in need, they come first.

Fasting – Ordained in the Holy Qur’an, the fast is an act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a richer perception of God.

Pilgrimage to Makkah once in a lifetime is the most significant manifestation of Islamic faith and unity in the world.

The Lawrence Public Library is celebrating Ramadan, the Muslin holy month with a wonderful collection of books on the subject and the assistance of Assistant Library Director Kemal Bozkurt.  Kemal, who came to Lawrence from Turkey, is devout Muslin who enjoys educating visitors about his religion.

In the interest of learning about Ramadan, I met with Kemal and it was a very enlightening conversation.  When we consider that there are 1.6 billion Muslims across the world, we should try to find out more about them.

Ramadan is believed to be the holiest month of the year within Islam, and the month in which the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad.  In this month, the gates to heaven are believed to be open and the gates to hell closed.  This holy month is dedicated to prayer and fasting during the sunlight hours.  It encompasses abstinence from food, drink, having sex, and all evil thoughts and deeds in the interest of self-purification.

Muslims observing the daily fast start with an evening meal called Iftar, often beginning with a few sips of water or something sweet, like an odd number of dates.  This takes place after sundown when it is completely dark.  Kemal explained that he and his wife begin their day during this period at 2:30 in the morning to make sure they have a meal before the sun comes up.  At the first sign of light on the horizon, the consumption must stop for the rest of the day until sunset.

All “healthy” Muslims are expected to fast, but there are a number of exceptions: Children, elderly people and pregnant, as are travelers or people who are physically or mentally ill.  Non-fasters can compensate by fasting at a later date or feeding a person in need.

The date of Ramadan is determined by the lunar calendar, so it falls about 11 days earlier each year than it did the year prior.  The task of fasting is considerably more demanding when Ramadan falls in the summer months, as there are many more hours of daylight and warmer temperatures can be taxing on the body. This year, Ramadan will coincide with the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21, the longest day of the year in that part of the world with 15 hours of daylight.

But as Mr. Bozkurt puts it, “Soon Ramadan will fall in the winter and the daylight hours will be shorter.”

Visit the Lawrence Public Library’s display of materials on Islam and Ramadan which will be there for the next couple of weeks.