SHAW AIR FORCE BASE –
For nearly 2 billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year, and a time of fasting, prayer, reflection, and charity. The dates fluctuate, as Ramadan falls in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and officially begins when the crescent moon coincides with the astrological new moon. When the sighting occurs, Saudi Arabia's Moon Sighting Committee of the Supreme Court announces the official dates. This year, April 2 marked the first day of Ramadan in most Muslim countries.
Muslims believe it was during this month the first revelation of the Quran, through the archangel Gabriel, was revealed to the prophet Muhammed. As part of one of the five pillars of Islam, fasting takes place from dusk until dawn during Ramadan. These pillars define the faith, beliefs, and practices of Muslims. Other pillars include the first, Shahadah, believing there is no God but Allah, and the prophet Muhammad is his messenger. The second pillar is Salah, praying five times a day. Giving alms, or charity, is Zakat, the third pillar. The fourth pillar is Sawm, or fasting, followed by Hajj, making at least one pilgrimage to Mecca.
During the fast, there is no eating, drinking, or smoking. According to U.S. Army Central’s Foreign Affairs Specialist, Hossam Alsaadi, those not fasting in a Muslim country still need to respect the holy month. “During Ramadan, drinking, eating, and smoking in public is considered very offensive and can even attract a fine or reprimand from the police. If an individual wants to eat or drink in daylight hours during Ramadan, it has to be done indoors and out of sight.”
Military members are encouraged to ask Muslims about the rules and traditions of Ramadan, as a sign of respect and to look past the differences in cultures.
“Ramadan is a time of reconciliation,” said Chaplain (COL) Khallid Shabazz, U.S. Army Central's Command Chaplain. “The Holy Quran says ‘We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other, not that ye may despise each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.’”
Eid al-Fitr, or the “festival of breaking the fast,” signals the end of Ramadan, but will only begin with the sighting of a new moon, called the Shawwal Moon.
Understanding the cultures of different countries will help build a foundation of mutual respect and further U.S. relationships with our partner nations.