Islam is one of the most misunderstood religions and, now more than ever, it is important to fully grasp its basic concepts and ideas.

By understanding the lessons taught in Ramadan, Nov. 17 and ending Dec. 14, you can start to understand Islam and its followers.

People may wonder just what Ramadan is and why Muslims do what they do during this often mysterious time of year.

In its most basic definition, Ramadan is a month when Muslims refrain from eating, drinking or engaging in sexual relations between sunrise and sunset. It is a time of great spirituality for Muslims worldwide.

More importantly, it is a time of mental and physical discipline, as well as spiritual reflection ? a time to cleanse the body and the soul.

A typical day during Ramadan begins before sunrise. A light meal is eaten in preparation for the day of fasting. When breaking the fast at sunset it is customary to follow the tradition of Prophet Muhammad by having dates and water.

The physical feeling of hunger and thirst creates empathy for the suffering of the poor, and the denial of worldly comforts creates self-discipline.

Islam teaches that fasting helps one to overcome selfishness, greed and other human faults that may have ingrained themselves in one’s habits throughout the year.

But Ramadan involves more than just fasting during the day. A Muslim’s mental focus shifts away from the immediate and physical and moves towards a greater spiritual consciousness.

This spirituality reminds Muslims of their religious duties, and many find themselves concentrating more on their five daily prayers, reading the holy book, the Quran, and engaging in other acts of piety.

In addition to the regular prayers Muslims also pray a special night prayer called Taraweeh in congregation at a mosque.

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims everywhere look forward to the holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr. On the morning of Eid, a special congregational prayer is held in the morning, people visit each other’s homes and enjoy their food with renewed thanks towards God for his mercy.

For anyone interested, this Ramadan the Muslim Student’s Association will provide rides to the local mosque on Fridays.

The Muslim Student’s Association also invites everyone to share Ramadan by eating dates and food with UR’s Muslims every Sunday in the Interfaith Chapel as well as joining us for dinner on Dec. 1 at sunset in the Interfaith Chapel.

Masood can be reached at

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