Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Ramadan News Links: Muslim Students: What Ramadan Means To Us

Expand Messages
  • Zafar Khan
    Muslim Students: What Ramadan Means To Us The Huffington Post UK | Posted: 16/07/2013 15:06 BST | Updated: 16/07/2013 15:09 BST
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 27, 2013
      Muslim Students: What Ramadan Means To Us
      The Huffington Post UK | Posted: 16/07/2013 15:06 BST | Updated: 16/07/2013 15:09 BST


      Muslim students set up a tent outside their university to break their fast with the local community. They aimed to share their religion and culture with others.

      One student said the event had allowed him to access a culture "alien" to him, the BBC reported. Another said she knew "dates were important" in the religious tradition. But, aside from not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, what does Ramadan actually mean for students?

      We asked, and you told us. If you'd like to add to our collection of experiences, tweet us @HPUKStudents or email us at: ukstudenteds@...

      Ramadan in Gaza: Life in a cemetery
      Published July 26th, 2013 - 10:23 GMT via SyndiGate.info
      By Sanaa Kamel


      Gaza – People walk by the cemetery, where thousands of dead gather in one place. They begin praying for them out of fear of the torments of the grave. Some do not know that these cemeteries are not only inhabited by the dead but also by the living. Al-Mamadani Cemetery in the center of Gaza City, near Palestine Square, has been home to Palestinian families since the 1948 nakba.

      Here, children play on top of graves, jumping over the rectangular obstacles and announcing the winner who cleared the most. Their innocence makes them oblivious of the tragedy of life. Their faces question those who find their lives strange. Who is the stranger here, them or those who visit the graves? They ask their parents why they have to stay in a place not made for the living.

      "Our life is closer to death. The only difference between us and those in the grave is that we can hear those around us eat and drink. But those in the ground cannot hear us, nor can we hear them," Omar Hammouda Kheil, a man in his sixties, explains, describing the living situation of his family of 28, including his children and grandchildren.

      Kheil has been living in Mamadani Cemetery since 1948. His poor family could not find refuge, except next to the graves where they built a small home. He waters the graves for a small amount of money paid by relatives of the dead, but it is not enough to feed his family. However, he knows all the graves by name and age at death, pointing them out to visitors. He is also the cemetery's watchful guard.

      His family dreams of living in a normal home, no matter how small. It has to be far from the terror of the graveyard, with its lizards, snakes, scorpions, and stray dogs. But they have not yet found a way to achieve their goal.

      Ramadan brings a different type of suffering to the family. At sunset, they watch people scurrying to their homes to enjoy a good meal. But they need to wait for charity and donations to set their own table over a grave that can fit them around it, just like one of those Ramadan series about slum dwellers.

      Sohour, the last meal before dawn, is another problem. The mother of one of the children, 10-year-old Hamdan, explains the situation while covering her face with a veil. She is too embarrassed by the situation to reveal her name. "My heart is torn when my son comes up to me and asks for a sohour, just like our neighbors are having on the next street. I cry every night he asks me why can't we live like normal people away from the graves and dead," she laments.

      "Our life is a big tragedy. We only have God's succor. My husband does not work. Despite his surgeries, he still looks for suitable work for daily bread," she continues.

      "As you can see, our lives and the dead is the same," adds old man Kheil. "They could be better off than us. They know their destiny but we don't know where we are heading." He says he awaits death to join them in the ground, where he will feel better. He might be able to listen to his family praying for him, but they will not hear him, as with all his dead neighbors, as he puts it.

      His old wife, Yousra, feels the same. She blames officials and decision-makers, who only look at poor families in front of the media.

      "I call on all officials in Gaza and the West Bank, [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas, [head of Hamas government Ismail] Haniyeh, and anyone with a conscience to look at our tragic situation and give us a helping hand," she implores. "If the officials take care of us and our fellow humans who live in the graves, it will not cost them anything compared to what they spend on fading appearances. We are barely 100 families."

      Kheil's sons inherited the graves. Their suffering is born of not merely of poverty but also of the poisonous snakes and scorpions. "We live under threat of the poisonous snakes and scorpions and the lizards, reptiles, and mice who share this awful place," he says.

      The family still dreams of a better future and a change in their situation. All they want is a simple life in peace and security.

      Ramadan Aid

      Government neglect of poor families prompted some Palestinian charities to intervene. The Islamic Society in Jabalia Camp, north of the Strip, provided charity during the first ten days of Ramadan for 1,026 families, worth $84,221.

      Al-Islah Islamic Society in north Gaza also began to distribute aid at the beginning of Ramadan. It delivered 189 food kits, 1,016 coupons of 200 shekels ($55) each, and 1,016 orphan allowances at 500 ($139) shekels per family.

      [SLIDESHOW] Syrian refugees mark Ramadan in Lebanon, Jordan campsOXFAM's Karl Schembri takes us through a tour of the refugee camps hosting over 120,000 people from conflict-ridden Syria during Ramadan.
      Friday 26 July 2013 - 12:08


      It's just over half-way through the month of Ramadan.

      More than 1.8m Syrian refugees have fled their homes and are now living in neighbouring countries with more arriving each day.

      Families are living either in refugee camps, temporary tented settlements or crowded rented accommodation. Life is tough and the month of Ramadan makes them think of home more than ever.

      Here, Oxfam's Karl Schembri shows how Syrian refugee families are marking Ramadan this year in Jordan and Lebanon.

      Oxfam has provided humanitarian assistance to more than 135,000 refugees who have fled to Lebanon and Jordan since the start of the year.

      The organisation is providing water and sanitation facilities in Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan, and to families living in temporary settlements in both Lebanon and Jordan; as well as providing cash support to families living in rented accommodation and settlements in both countries. Funds are short but with more money Oxfam would be able to scale up its response to the Syria crisis and reach more people.


      Emirati artist embodies Ramadan spirit in sculpture
      Moon Reflection by Bin Lahej on display at Dubai Mall
      By Mary Achkhanian, Special to Gulf News Published: 21:00 July 26, 2013


      Tehran during Ramadan: 'nobody is really in the spirit'
      Some Iranians say observance of the Muslim fasting period is slacking, though no one will go so far as to break fast in public
      Tehran Bureau correspondent
      guardian.co.uk, Friday 26 July 2013 16.48 BST


      India Accommodates Muslims’ Ramadan
      By Shuriah Niazi
      OnIslam Correspondent
      Wednesday, 24 July 2013 00:00


      DELHI – Marking the fasting month of Ramadan, Indian Muslims have praised the government moves to accommodate the religious practices of the world's largest Muslim minority during the holy month.

      “We are a minority in India, but we are allowed to enjoy the holy month of Ramadan,” Aftab Hamid of Delhi told OnIslam.net.

      Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in India on July 10.

      In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

      Seizing the holy month to purify their souls, Muslims usually change their routine to spend more time in prayers or Qur’an recitation.

      Many Muslims also tend to change their work routine during this month as government and private jobs allow them to leave early for Iftar during the month of Ramadan.

      “We are free to leave our job an hour earlier every day during Ramadan, so that we can join our family for iftar,” said Sakib Ahmed, a government employee in Bhopal city.

      After long fasting hours, Muslims fill mosques across the country to pray special tarawih prayers.

      In India, Quran recitation is organized from 10 to 27 days in different mosques across the country.

      People have the option to attend these special prayers in whichever mosque they want. Some mosques even organize translation of Quran for devotees.

      “I always go for a 10 day tarawih prayer. I am working in a private company and needs to travel a lot, “said Atiqur-rehman of Jabalpur town.

      “This gives me an option to hear the Qur’an completely during Ramadan.”

      Ramadan Treats

      During the holy month, special interfaith iftar meals usually connect Muslims with their neighbors.

      “The majority community often participates in our iftar parties,” Hamid, the Muslim from Delhi, told OnIslam.net.

      “They even organize such parties for their Muslim friends.”

      Around the globe, Muslims observe Ramadan with a set of traditional rituals including family gathering at iftar, religious lessons, special evening prayer and helping the poor.

      While prayer and fasting takes precedence, food and Iftar parties are just as much a part of India’s Ramadan.

      The fast is traditionally broken with water and palm dates, an ages-old legacy passed down from Prophet Mohammed himself.

      Fruits are of course a must-fruit salads grace many an iftar table.

      “Almost all Indians break their fast with palm dates,” said Jawed Khan.

      “Now people have a option of different varieties of dates. Now-a-days we are getting some of the best dates from Arabian countries.”

      During Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.

      The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.

      There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.

      Ramadan Connects Nigeria’s Faiths
      By Rafiu Oriyomi
      OnIslam Correspondent
      Tuesday, 23 July 2013 00:00


      LAGOS – Seeking better communication with the government, Nigeria Muslims have launched an enlightenment program during the holy fasting month of Ramadan to enhance healthy interfaith relations in their community.

      The program is to “deepen healthy community relations between Muslims and their neighbors in government or corporate organizations,” Professor Ishaq Akintola, a leading Muslim rights activist, told OnIslam.net.

      “We start by urging organizations to avoid fixing provocative or stressful events in Ramadan as this could strain relations with the Muslim community.”

      Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in Nigeria on July 10.

      In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

      During the holy month, Muslims dedicate their time to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.

      Launching the enlightenment program, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) group urged the government agencies, political parties and corporate bodies to avoid fixing programs during the holy month that might stress or provoke Muslims.

      The group cited an earlier case in 2002 when a national beauty pageant was held within Ramadan, leading to massive protests across most Northern Nigerian cities as Muslims saw it as a deliberate attempt to provoke them.

      That incident led to deaths and injuries, and dealt a blow to Muslim-Christian relations.

      “Apart from fasting from dawn till dusk, Muslims are expected to engage in rigorous spiritual exercises,” Akintola said in an email exclusively sent to OnIslam.net.

      “It hurts Muslims when they are compelled to be part of certain social events during the month of Ramadan when indeed it is a religious duty to remain on the celestial plane throughout the period.

      “MURIC uses this opportunity to remind those at the helm of affairs to consider the sensibilities of the Nigerian Muslim population when planning events for the months of July and August 2013.”

      Interfaith Programs

      A similar awareness program was launched by a leading Muslim group to educate employers and Muslims alike on how to relate especially during the fasting month.

      “It is our belief that as many non-Muslims and employers as possible need to be properly educated on what this month demands of Muslims and the need for them to understand their Muslim employees therein,” Kamor Disu, of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, told OnIslam.net.

      “It is our belief that as many non-Muslims and employers as possible need to be properly educated on what this month demands of Muslims and the need for them to understand their Muslim employees therein,” he added.

      The program included designing a pamphlet containing the guide to Muslim-employers’ relations during and after Ramadan.

      “It is our intention to foster unity and harmony in the society,” Disu said.

      It will be wrong to assume that employers know everything about the religious obligations of their workers, and it is against this background that we set out to fill that gap.

      “Part of the message is calling on employers to allow their Muslim workers perform their prayers as and when due and, except it is genuinely feared that it would affect productivity, they should allow Muslims to do their tilaawah (Qur’an recitation) as they may deem appropriate. We of course made it clear for Muslim employees to respect the sensitivities of their work.”

      The initiative won plaudits of Muslim activists.

      “I agree and support that kind of cause because it will not only take away the stress or psychological trauma associated with a fasting Muslim being exposed to hardship or profanities but will also make him see his employer or government or the concerned association as respecting his religious sensibilities,” Omoyemi Akangbe, a Lagos-based attorney, said.

      “That way, we are fostering friendly relations among ourselves. So I join the call.”

      Temitope Olasoju, a Muslim banker at the Federal Capital Territory, said he agrees with any call for everybody to “respect the sanctity of the holy month, because it is in doing that can we truly demonstrate our respect for one another as a people of one country, bound by one destiny.”

      Not only Muslims.

      The new interfaith programs were welcomed by Reverend Bamidele Isaac Isola, who worships at the popular Redeemed Christian Church of Christ in Lagos.

      “I don’t think our Muslim brothers are asking for too much or anything impossible,” he told OnIslam.net.

      “Respect begets respect, and I would expect people to respect the sanctity of the holy month. In fact, respect for one another should not be restricted to Ramadan or lent but it should be an everyday affair.

      “It is by doing that that Nigeria can move forward.”

      Support for Muslim converts during Ramadan
      By Lisa Wangsness | GLOBE STAFF JULY 20, 2013


      Brian Buzby had a splitting headache the first day of Ramadan from caffeine withdrawal and mild dehydration. He loved the late night Taraweeh prayers at the mosque, when a portion of the Koran is recited each night, and stayed long afterward talking with friends. Then he returned home to his apartment in South Boston and opened the refrigerator again.

      “I don’t even go to sleep before suhoor,” the 30-year-old student told a small group of fellow converts gathered at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center last week, referring to the 3 a.m. predawn meal. “I go home and I keep eating.”

      A burst of laughter; their teacher, Hossam AlJabri, smiled.

      “We’re still in the beginning,” he said. “But Ramadan will just keep throwing beautiful things at you.”

      Bulgaria’s Interfaith Ramadan Iftars
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Thursday, 18 July 2013 13:57


      SOFIA – In the holy fasting month of Ramadan, Muslims and Christians come together to enjoy breaking fast together in interfaith events that unites followers of both faiths.

      "We bring Muslims and Christians together and create a beautiful atmosphere serving delicious meals,” Akif Mehmet Akif, the Mayor of Bulgarian Mestan province, told Timeturk.

      “Muslims and Christians have no problems in the town."

      Like millions of Muslims worldwide, Bulgarians started fasting on Wednesday, July 10.

      During Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain during daylight hours from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      They dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, good deeds and self-restraint.

      Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.

      Regional Mufti of Kardzhali Beyhan Mehmed said that people who were interested in reciting Qur'an and night prayers throng to mosques.

      Yet, interfaith iftars added a special flavor to this year’s Ramadan.

      For Stanka Miteva, a Bulgarian citizen who attended a fast breaking meal with her Muslim friends, the experience was enlightening about Muslim traditions.

      "We live together in peace," Miteva said.

      “We celebrate our religious festivals together. I have never seen any misdeeds from Muslims.”

      According to official figures, Muslims, mostly ethnic Turkish descendants of the Ottoman Empire's reach into Europe, make up more than 12 percent of Bulgaria's 7.8 million population.

      The Fatwa House puts the percentage at nearly 25.

      They coexist with Christian compatriots in a culture known as "komshuluk", or neighborly relations.

      Free Iftars Color Nigeria Ramadan
      By Rafiu Oriyomi
      OnIslam Correspondent
      Friday, 19 July 2013 00:00


      LAGOS – Wealthy Muslims and charity organizations are championing centers for free iftars across Nigeria to feed the poor during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

      "Our target is to provide 200,000 iftar meals to indigent people during the month of Ramadan," Muddathir Olaniyi Sanuth of Deen Communications Limited, the group behind one of the initiatives for free iftars, told OnIslam.net.

      He said the iftar centers are being held in four Nigerian cities; Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano during Ramadan.

      Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in Nigeria on July 10.

      As the holy month started, free iftar centers have sprung across many Nigerian cities.

      OnIslam.net checks found that more and more iftar centers are spread across the country, from Lagos in the country’s Southwest, Ilorin and Jos in North-central, Borno and Yobe in Northeast, Kaduna, Kano to Sokoto in the mainly Muslim Northwestern region.

      Sanuth said the initiative, themed "The Feed A Soul Programme", will also be extended to prison inmates, especially in Lagos.

      "This will include the inmates of Kirikiri Medium and Maximum Prisons in Lagos, tertiary institution, hospitals and children welfare homes," he said.

      "We also hope to feed 20,000 people at different locations on the days of `Eid."

      Sanuth urged the Nigerians to donate to the cause "of bringing smiles to the faces of our brothers and sisters in one distress or another.”

      In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.

      It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.

      Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.

      Muslim Help

      One of Nigeria’s biggest Muslim congregations, the NASFAT, has held free iftars across its bases nationwide.

      The program aims to "ensure that as many poor Muslims as possible are assisted to carry out their religious duty with relative comfort," said NASFAT National Imam Abdullahi Akinbode.

      Akinbode said while previous iftar centers of NASFAT remain open, a dozen more have been opened to spread the gesture to more Muslims who need help.

      Apart from state governments, politicians and wealthy Muslims are also organizing free iftars for fasting Muslims and sponsoring educative programs in the print and electronic media.

      OnIslam.net also noticed a culture of free iftar across many Government Houses in the country.

      A senator representing Kwara Central in the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki, said in a tweet to have donated N100m to feed the poor across his constituency.

      "The donation was announced so the people can know this has been made available to them. No insult or show-off are intended whatsoever as is being insinuated," said Saraki.

      The UNDP indicates that at least over 60 percent of Nigerians, most of them found in the Muslim North, are living below the poverty line, surviving on less than a dollar per day.

      "Yes you can feed the poor in the spirit of charity especially in the month of Ramadan," Mallam Sulaiman Rotimi, a Muslim social critic, told OnIslam.net.

      "But the question is what happens to these (poor) people after Ramadan. They relapse into hunger?”

      He urged the government and wealthy Muslims to "ensure that as many people as possible are productively engaged". Sulaimon Olayinka Abdulfatai, a computer science student, agrees.

      "There is nothing bad about giving to the poor. But even the prophet said it is better to teach people how to fish than to give them fish," he said.

      "So, with N100million, for instance, one can create meaningful jobs for at least 200 graduates, rather than what is at best some political jamborees by our politicians especially those who go on air to advertise what they have given."

      Igbaifua Aselemhe Ferdinand, a political science teacher, shares a similar view.

      "First of all, we appreciate the fact that people are giving to the poor. But I have two questions for them: One, who is with the money so the poor would know where to go and get something to eat after fasting? Two, come to think of it, who would feed them after Ramadan?”

      Saadallah Ibrahim, a Muslim scholar, urged the government and wealthy Muslims to not only establish more industries to cut down the statistics of the country’s poor but to institute "a concrete social security net, such as unemployment benefit and so on, so people would not necessarily become slaves in the process of accessing some charity provided by our politicians.”

      Muslims make up around 55 percent of Nigeria's 160 million population.

      Part 2/2: Ramadan Herbs



      Dates are another traditional item to ingest during the iftar. Muslims around the world, following the example of the Prophet (SAW), usually break their fast with dates. The reason that they are so beneficial is that their natural sugar travels quickly to the liver, and is converted more quickly than any other nutrient into energy that the fasting body soaks up like a sponge.

      This is the healthiest way of breaking the fast as it eases the body into digesting. Dates contain protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, vitamin A, and natural sodium. They also contain a high amount of dietary fiber, which makes them a good digestive aid. Dates are also said to protect the stomach and the intestines from parasites and bacterial infections, so they are an especially good beginning to a meal when traveling or eating at a restaurant.

      Eat, Pray, Fast
      Beautiful pictures of the start of Islam's holy month.
      BY LYDIA TOMKIW | JULY 10, 2013


      Ramadan in Morocco Has a Different Flavor
      Muslims' Traditions
      By Carissa D. Lamkahouan
      Freelance Writer, USA
      Thursday, 11 July 2013 00:00


      Recalling Ramadan traditions in his hometown of Marrakech, Morocco, Abdessamad Ali’s memories are very specific.

      Ali recalls Harira, the special soup served to break the fast, his mother waking before the rest of the family to prepare Suhoor meal, the cannons which signaled the fasting masses that it was time to quench their thirst.

      He also recalls the Nefar, a local man who would walk the streets of his neighborhood blowing his trumpet to herald the start and the end of Ramadan.

      Though many of these Ramadan rituals are still alive in Morocco, some, like the Nefar, have nearly disappeared with the passing of time, particularly in bigger cities like Marrakech.

      “It’s really sad to see those traditions go away,” said Ali, who has lived in the United States since 1999. “But Ramadan is still special because you feel it.”

      For those who remember the Nefars with their long, skinny horns, the sound of the trumpet serves as just another engagement of the senses, of sights, sounds, and tastes that are linked with their memories of Ramadan. Meanwhile, in some other places, the ritual continues.

      “It’s an amazing tradition in small cities,” said Kat Fadaouri, who hails from Agadir, Morocco, but now makes her home in London.

      Jennifer Wickens, a Canadian Muslim who lived in the city of Mimlal for a year in 2008, never heard the blast of the Nefar’s trumpet, but she fondly recalls drummers roaming the streets during the early morning darkness before the fast began, tapping their drums to rouse people out of bed.

      “The night drummer would come through the streets about two hours or so before it was time to begin the fast,” she said.

      “It was to wake you up so you could warm the food and sit together to eat it. The rhythm was beautiful! The drummer would weave in and around the small streets making the sound echo of the houses. The tradition of drumming was usually passed down from father to son. It has been going on forever and still continues today.” She recalled.

      Traditional foods of Ramadan

      As Ramadan is the month of fasting, traditions naturally take root in what people eat when they sit down to break their fasts. However, what people choose to prepare during this holy month can vary from home to home.

      Many people eat chicken or some other types of meat served with vegetables, cooked the night before and heated in the morning for quick preparation. Others choose a simple meal of bread with butter and coffee. Some prefer Moroccan Msemen, a type of pancake folded into a square shape before being fried in a pan and then drizzled with honey.

      Still others eat Beghrir, a crepe-style pancake that when drizzled with butter and paired with sweet Moroccan mint tea, is enough to ease anyone into the long food-free day ahead.

      Moroccan women often wake before dawn to prepare Suhoor and then rouse their slumbering families when it’s time to eat.

      Ait Ali said he remembers his mother making her Suhoor preparations the night before.

      “My mother would buy a lot of chicken and put them on the grill to cook overnight,” he said.

      “Then she would wake us up, we’d eat the food and have tea and bread then we’d go back to sleep.”

      Perhaps even more than Suhoor, Iftar is essential for Ramadan traditions.

      Alerted by the blasts of the cannons or the wail of the sirens that tell of the time to break the fast, most Moroccans sit down to a traditional meal of dates, milk and water; but it is the Harira, a distinctly Moroccan soup of lentils, tomatoes and chickpeas that serves as the centerpiece of the Iftar menu.

      The ritual of serving Harira is so prevalent in Morocco that it is served in nearly 90 percent of the North African country’s homes during Ramadan.

      The light and healthy soup is the perfect food to fill a shrunken and delicate stomach after a full day of fasting, particularly during the long days of summer.

      Boiled eggs, served with a side of cumin, often find a place beside the Harira on Iftar table. Smoothies, usually avocado mixed with milk, sugar, dates and almonds, or freshly squeezed orange juice; quench a long-denied thirst. Though they are most popular in the early morning, Msemen and Beghrir are often eaten at day’s end as well.

      Of course prayer is an important part of the spiritual focus of Ramadan and, just like their Harira, Moroccans take it seriously.

      Ramadan: The Dawn of Hope
      By Mohannad Hakeem
      Friday, 12 July 2013 00:00


      I still remember the first tears coming from my eyes during one of the Ramadan Tarawih nights. They were not related to acknowledgement of sins, interaction with the Quran, or fear of hell fire, they came out simply after hearing a du`aa’ that the Imam made for Palestine. They were sincere supplications that asked Allah to help our brothers and sisters in the holy land, to liberate Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, to relieve the widows and the orphans and free the prisoners.

      Ramadan Fasting Challenges Arctic Muslims
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Saturday, 13 July 2013 00:00


      CAIRO – In a city where the sun never sets, Ramadan fasting is providing an enormous challenge to Muslims in Sweden’s northernmost city of Kiruna where devout Muslims fast from sun up to sun down for a month.

      "Kiruna is as high up as you get in Sweden, the sun never sets during this month," Ali Melhem, 45, who has lived in Kiruna for 24 years told The Local.

      "When I first moved here, Ramadan was in the spring."

      Sweden’s long summer days are presenting a challenge to Muslims fasting for Ramadan.

      Starting on July 10, eleven days earlier than last year in accordance with the lunar cycle, Ramadan gets more into the lengthy summer days.

      In Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

      Religious leaders say the long hours of daylight are not a good excuse to skip the fast.

      For Melhem, fasting for 24 hours a day was a challenge no one can achieve.

      "My wife and I couldn't make that choice, so we've consulted mullahs from Iraq to Iran,” Melhem, who is a Shiite Muslim, said.

      “They say we can wait to fast until the autumn," he said.

      He added that some Sunni Muslims in Kiruna have chosen to break their fast when the sun sets over Makkah as a solution to their dilemma.

      "I did check if I could follow the sun times in a nearby Swedish town like Luleå or Umeå, but even fasting for 23 hours a day is a bit difficult," father-of-three Melhem said.

      In Ramadan, fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.

      Muslims also dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.

      The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.

      No Consensus

      Posing a dilemma for Arctic Muslims, no consensus has been reached on the fasting hours during arctic summer.

      “Several imams and organizations have different opinions,” Omar Mustafa, president of the Islamic League in Sweden, said.

      “It is up to each individual to decide, but it is not meant that you should fast around the clock. Islam provides many options," Mustafa added.

      A similar problem faced Scandinavian Muslims in nearby Finland.

      The Azhar Fatwa Committee in Egypt has issued a fatwa permitting Muslims in Scandinavia and Northern countries to fast according to Makkah time.

      "The Egyptian scholars say that if the fasting days are long - more than 18 hours - then you can follow the Makkah time or Madinah time, or the nearest Muslim country time," Imam Abdul Mannan, president of the Islan Society of Northern Finland, said.

      "The other point of view from the Saudi scholars says whatever the day is - long or short - you have to follow the local time."

      Muslims make up some 200,000 of Sweden’s nine million people, according to semi-official estimates.

      But according to the Islamic Center in Malmö, there are around 350,000 Muslims living in Sweden.

      Russian Muslims Welcome Ramadan
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Sunday, 14 July 2013 00:00


      MOSCOW – After years of living under communist regime, Russian Muslim families await the holy fasting month of Ramadan to enhance community relations during iftars and tarawih prayers.

      “Hopefully, Ramadan will accompany fortune to all Muslims,” Metin Dönmez, who migrated to Russia 3 years ago, told The World Bulletin on Saturday, July 13.

      “They pray for each other. Ramadan is the most sacred month for us, giving us the chance to meet with Muslim fellows living in different parts of Russia.

      “We come together for sahurs, (the last meal eaten before the day's fasting begins during Ramadan), and tarawih (a particular prayer for the holy month).”

      Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, started last Wednesday in Russia.

      In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

      In Ramadan, fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.

      Muslims also dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.

      The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.

      Under the communist regime for years, Ramadan was far away from its spirits.

      The case has changed after the collapse of communist dictatorships has brought relief in terms of Islam and Muslims.

      Currently, Ramadan serves as a season to educate people about the true Islam.

      To reach this end, special movies about Islam are presented, educative talks are given and fund-raising meetings for disabled people and orphans are held during the İftar programs where thousands of Muslims have a fast-breaking dinner together in a friendly atmosphere.

      Halal Dilemma

      Despite of enjoying a better Ramadan atmosphere, Russian Muslims were facing a dilemma over the absence of halal food.

      “The biggest problem for Muslims living in Russia is finding halal food, food products that are permissible to consume in Islam,” Turkish Ambassador to Moscow Aydın Sezgin noted.

      “Muslims, not having any opportunity other than the foods produced in accordance with Islamic principles, are trying to get halal meat from the butcher serving in the mosque.”

      The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.

      Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.

      Moreover, a limited number of mosques in Moscow, only six mosques, posed another problem to Russian Muslims who usually fill mosques during Ramadan for socialization and iftars.

      The Russian Federation is home to some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.

      Islam is Russia's second-largest religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million predominantly Orthodox population.

      The total number of mosques in the country has also exceeded ten thousand while it was only around 100 during the communist era.

      Japan Free Iftars Welcome Ramadan
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Friday, 12 July 2013 00:00


      CAIRO – Welcoming the holy fasting month of Ramadan, Japanese Muslims are offering free iftars at the country’s largest mosque to Muslims and non-Muslims to introduce them to the Islamic culture.

      “(Fasting) allows me to improve myself,” Benjdi El Mehdi, 27, a student from Morocco who was eagerly anticipating the meal, told The Japan Times.

      “In fact, it is fun.”

      Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in Japan on Wednesday, July 10.

      In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      Muslims hold family gatherings to break their fast together.

      Bringing iftar gatherings culture to the Japanese people, Tokyo Camii, the largest mosque in Japan, hosts daily iftar at the mosque facility each evening during Ramadan month for about 200 visitors.

      These iftars are usually attended by men and women from Turkey, Indonesia, Ghana and other nationalities.

      These iftars started originally as a form of charity served to poor Muslims and travelers.

      A few year ago, Tokyo Camii mosque adopted the custom, offering the meals to people of all nations and beliefs.

      During the holy month of Ramadan, fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.

      In Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.

      The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.

      True Islam

      The daily Ramadan iftars were offering an open window on Islamic culture and traditions during the holy month.

      “I came here because we’ve been learning about Islam at school,” said a 17-year-old high school student who was visiting the mosque with her friend.

      “I didn’t know the Muslims eat meat. I want to learn more.”

      Iftar gave the student her first taste of Turkish food as well as a chance to communicate with a woman from Brunei seated next to her.

      The food is made by three chefs who came from Turkey just for the iftar event.

      They begin work before noon, and plan to serve 200 meals a day until the end of Ramadan in August.

      Islam began in Japan in the 1920s through the immigration of a few hundreds of Turkish Muslims from Russia following the Russian revolution.

      In 1930, the number of Muslims in Japan reached about 1000 of different origins.

      Another wave of migrants who boosted the Muslim population reached its peak in the 1980s, along with migrant workers from Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

      Japan today is home to a thriving Muslim community of about 120,000, among nearly 127 million in the world's tenth most populated country.

      Egyptians' missing Ramadan spirit
      Political upheaval and economic malaise have diminished holy month celebrations.
      Dahlia Kholaif Last Modified: 11 Jul 2013 17:44


      Cairo, Egypt - While the notions of peace and cooperation are celebrated in the Muslim world at this time of year, Egyptians are struggling with those concepts during the holy month of Ramadan after the divisive military overthrow of the elected government.

      "O Allah, spill your anger on those who seek to harm Egypt, and extend your grace to those who want its prosperity. O Allah, destroy those who don't want your laws carried out in this country," said Yosri Ackad, a supporter of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, as he led prayers on the first day of Ramadan.

      Symbolising the vast divisions within Egypt at the moment, the retired physician was reprimanded after prayers by fellow worshipers in Cairo's upper-class neighbourhood of Maadi for "bringing politics into the house of god", and "imposing the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology on others".

      UK Muslims Share Ramadan With Homeless
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Friday, 12 July 2013 00:00


      LONDON – Connecting London people on a humanitarian level, a group of Muslim volunteers have organized special iftars for the homeless and people of other communities to break barriers and correct misconceptions about Islam.

      "We want this Ramadan campaign to challenge some of the misconceptions people have about Islam,” Omar Salha, an alumnus of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), told The BBC on Thursday, July 11.

      "But it's also about connecting with all communities on a more humanistic level.

      "It's only right that as Muslims and Londoners we serve the wider London community in the spirit of Ramadan," he added.

      The special iftars, held at Ramadan Tent in SOAS in Bloomsbury, central London, were first suggested by Salha, an activist in Muslim volunteer activities across Britain.

      His experience in hosting iftar dates back to 2011 when he organized an iftar for SOAS students.

      At this iftar, participants gave out meals to the homeless in Lincoln's Inn Fields, a large public square in Holborn, central London.

      This experience spurred Salha to create a more organized campaign this year for the entirety of Ramadan, with the support of individual donors and various restaurants, such as homeless charity St Mungo's.

      For him, these iftar were important to remove the negative portrayals of Islam and for Muslims to understand how to contribute positively to London.

      "Some residents from St Mungo's saw our advert in their residence and came," said Salha.

      "They were reluctant to say who they were at the beginning, but later said they were happy that there are still people reaching out to them."

      Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in Britain on Wednesday, July 10.

      In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.

      The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.

      Inspiring Experience

      Attending the iftar, many non-Muslims were touched by the warmth of special Muslim traditions in Ramadan.

      "The event has allowed people to access a belief and culture that may be alien to them,” David Muller, who is from Switzerland, said.

      "I think more people may like to know about it and that's why this gathering is valuable."

      Alyna Rogow, who lives in the US, found the experience educating.

      "I already knew eating dates was important," said Rogow.

      "But I've been learning more about the terminology of Ramadan. I've really liked the atmosphere here today and I've been talking to people about how to volunteer and donate."

      Seeing the success of their experience, Salha said he hoped the campaign would grow and have a presence in important London landmarks.

      "We have a vision of having iftar in Trafalgar Square with people from all walks of life and all communities.

      “It would be a huge compliment to London's diversity."

      Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.

      Increasing number of non-Muslims taking part in Ramadan in Minnesota
      Article by: ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune Updated: July 10, 2013 - 9:41 PM


      Patrick Nervig relished a big bite of steaming yellow rice and spiced lamb — and crossed a religious divide. Tuesday marked the first time the lifelong Lutheran had attended an iftar, the meal ending the daily fast for Muslims during Ramadan, which began Monday at sundown.

      A Muslim co-worker hosted the iftar for about 20 people at his apartment complex in Woodbury. The fact that nearly half the guests were non-Muslims illustrates the growing acceptance of Islam as more Muslims make Minnesota their home.

      From participating in iftar meals to touring mosques to joining the fasts, more Christians and other non-Muslims are taking part in events and activities tied to the sacred period of Ramadan, which continues through Aug. 7.

      “I don’t know too many Muslim people, so I was curious how they would come together for a meal,” said Nervig, 29, of St. Paul. “It’s really good food that I’ve never tried before. Got to meet some new people. … I think just being open-minded and experiencing other people’s religion and cultures in general is good.”

      Muslim leaders say the burgeoning interest in Ramadan reflects the strides being made in relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Minnesota.

      While tension remains, Muslim advocates are particularly encouraged by the Blaine City Council’s recent decision to approve a small Islamic school over neighborhood objections.

      “A lot of people have questions for Muslims, so Ramadan creates that platform for them to come and ask whatever is on their mind,” said Lori Saroya, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

      Minnesota Muslims’ growing presence has brought a greater awareness of religious eventssuch as Ramadan. Over the past 10 years, the state’s Muslim population has nearly doubled to 150,000; there are now about 47 mosques and Islamic centers, about twice the number 10 years ago.

      During the monthlong holy period, Muslims fast without food or drink, from dawn to sunset, as an exercise in patience and humility. They do charitable acts like feeding the needy. They pray five times a day and spend more time reading the Qur’an, often getting by on just a few hours of sleep this time of year when the days are long.

      Many businesses, schools and other institutions now make accommodations for employees and students who observe Ramadan, allowing them more flexible hours. Churches and other non-Muslim groups are also increasingly aware, touring mosques and participating in iftar meals in greater numbers.

      The Minnesota Council of Churches helps to organize an interfaith program that has brought Muslims and Christians together for food and conversation for nearly eight years. This year will have the most participation yet from Muslim groups, with up to 15 area mosques and Islamic centers taking part, said Gail Anderson, the council’s director of unity and relationships.

      Last year, some 350 non-Muslims attended the iftars, including 233 people who had never before set foot in a mosque. This year, even more are expected.

      “When they sit down and have a meal with … people from the neighborhood and realize, ‘We’re all the same and we’re concerned about the same things: safety in our neighborhoods, our schools, that sort of thing’ … it just brings down the fear,” Anderson said, adding that it clears up misconceptions about Islam.

      Asad Zaman, an imam with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, who has helped organize the events with the council of churches, says non-Muslims’ interest in the faith during Ramadan is piqued because of fasting and other outward signs of observance.

      “In the past, people just didn’t know,” said Zaman. “So now many more people know … and with that there’s an uptick in acceptance.”

      ‘What Islam really is’

      Ather Syed and his wife, Zan Christ, who converted to Islam, hosted the iftar in Woodbury that Nervig attended. Syed, 26, a loan researcher for a financial company in St. Paul, says other non-Muslim co-workers also have shown interest in fasting during Ramadan.

      Ramadan fasting tough for Syrian refugees
      Civilians who have fled to camps in neighbouring countries face difficulties of fasting during Ramadan.
      Last Modified: 13 Jul 2013 12:05


      The number of Syrian refugees has exceeded 1.7 million, according to the United Nations.

      Refugees sheltering in camps in neighbouring countries are struggling, and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan is adding to their plight.

      Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from al-Zaatri camp in Jordan.

      Ramadan 2013: Fasting for the body, food for the soul
      Non-Muslims used to regard Ramadan with suspicion. As she begins the annual ritual, Arifa Akbar explains how its lessons in empathy and abstinence can benefit us all
      ARIFA AKBAR Author Biography TUESDAY 09 JULY 2013


      Ramadan in Britain during the early Eighties, when I was growing up, was very different from the way it is now. There was no awareness of the rotating month of fasting in the Islamic calendar, no flexibility to working hours, no facility for prayer in offices and no calls for prayer on television.

      For one month every year, my family and I would undertake this annual Islamic duty furtively, tip-toeing around for the pre-dawn meal for fear of waking up the neighbours with the kitchen clatter, and reluctant to talk about the practice for fear of censure or mockery.

      Four decades on, Ramadan is marked far more openly in Britain. Some employers are offering flexi-time to those Muslims who, from this week, will undertake a daily fast for 30 consecutive days that will involve around 19 hours of abstention from all food and drink – from sunrise to sunset. Some firms are allowing Muslims to begin their working day later, so they can catch up on sleep after waking up at 3am to eat, and to end their shifts earlier, so that they are not working when they are physically weakened.

      The Eid festival that marks the end of Ramadan is also increasingly celebrated in public venues around the country, including Trafalgar Square in London. Channel 4 announced last week that it would broadcast one out of five "calls for prayer" during the month-long fasting period. The channel called it a deliberately "provocative" act that would, it hoped, challenge prejudices that link Islam to extremism.

      It is not just Ramadan that has received a PR boost in recent times but fasting itself. In the early days of fasting – at school and then at university – I was often warned by well-wishers of the danger I might be putting my body under and that abstaining from eating and drinking water for long hours could do me harm.

      Now, fasting seems to have been reinvented as the ancients saw it – a way of giving the body a rest, cleansing both physically and spiritually, and a way of sharpening our collective sense of self-restraint. These objectives are being resurrected in our obesity-riddled Western world, with its binge culture, its childhood obesity and its addictions to food.

      Dr Michael Mosley's Horizon investigation in 2012, which studied the effects of intermittent fasting, and in which he fasted two days out of every week (living on 600 calories during his fasting days) spawned the popularity of the 5:2 diet. Dr Mosley presented medical evidence for the life-extending and life-improving benefits of fasting on the human body, though this is still contentious territory in the scientific and nutritional community.

      Even grander claims came from American scientists last year who said that fasting for regular periods could help protect the brain against degenerative illness. Researchers at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore found evidence that a severe reduction of calorie intake for one or two days a week could protect the brain from the most detrimental effects of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

      Aside from the health benefits, there are ethical reasons for fasting, too, even for the most irreligious amongst us. Steven Poole, in his book, You Aren't What You Eat: Fed Up With Gastroculture, argues compellingly against the recent explosion of "foodie culture" in Britain, in which food has become a self-indulgent, status-bound and profligate middle-class pastime.

      Celebrity chefs are now worshipped, he says, and people post pictures of their meals on Facebook. "Western civilisation is eating itself stupid," Poole writes. "The literary and visual rhetoric of food in our culture has become decoupled from any reasonable concern for nutrition or environment."

      It is naïve to think that a few hours of abstinence will harm the majority of the overweight population in the West, though of course, those with certain ailments such as heart conditions or diabetes should avoid fasting on medical grounds (and are exempt from the obligation of Ramadan). After all, hundreds of thousands of people across the world have access to only one meal at best, and limited water, yet they live on.

      Mohammed Shafiq, founding member of the Ramadhan Foundation, believes that the persistent hunger and weakness of religious fasting may slow us down but it also increases our compassion for those who have been weakened physically in some way. "During Ramadan, you understand how someone feels when they live in a place with no food or water."

      In this sense, there are gains to be made for the soul and its expanded capacity for empathy. Fasting leads us to think about our bodies, their dependencies and their frailties, as well as those of our fellow men and women. And that's not a bad thing.

      Faith and fasting: Ramadan rules

      * Fasting at Ramadan is deemed to be one of the "five pillars of Islam", which are the basis of the Muslim faith. Only children or those health conditions or children are excepted from fasting.

      * Fasting is seen to cleanse the soul from worldly impurities. It also serves to formally train Muslims to repel negative social vices through self-control and restraint.

      * In the UK, 2.7 million citizens are Muslim, according to the 2011 census, comprising 4.8 per cent of the population. Among under-25s, the figure is 10 per cent.

      * Advice on how to deal with Ramadan is widely available to schools, which are largely tolerant and flexible. Stoke-on-Trent city council advised in 2010 that schools should rearrange exams, cancel swimming lessons, sex education and school-wide social events during Ramadan, as well as offering school meals as packed lunches to take home to facilitate flexibility.

      Josh O'Neill
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.