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The holy month of Ramadan has begun


The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad and is marked by daily fasting from dawn to sunset, began this week.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from before dawn until sunset.

“The fast is performed to increase spirituality, discipline, self-restraint, and generosity while obeying God’s commandments,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Fasting is one of the “five pillars’’ of Islam, along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and pilgrimage to Mecca.

Omar Hedroug a youth director at the Islamic center explained, “You are kind of starving your body to be able to feed your soul. Fasting in Islam is one of the greatest ways for us to develop our relationship with Allah (God) … our Creator,” he said. “If within the month I can abstain from what is necessary for me to survive, I can no doubt do that with the things that are forbidden for me throughout the year,” he said.

A muslim food blogger, Yvonne Maffei, explained the impact fasting has on her. “You learn empathy. You learn your own strength. You learn about what you are able to withstand,” she said. “It takes focus off the food onto some critical thinking about your place in the world and how for other people this is perhaps a routine struggle.”

The nightly Ramadan program at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Koreatown starts with 15 minutes of recitation before the sunset prayer. After prayer, the center serves iftar, the fast-breaking meal, for about 700 people each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Following iftar, there is recitation of one part of the Quran with a commentary about the day’s portion.

After evening prayer, the final part of the Ramadan program is the taraweeh program, optional evening prayers, which includes eight cycles of prayer, concluding with shaf and witr prayers.

Ramadan concludes with Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday.