On eve of Islamic holy month, service members take time to learn about culture, tradition of Ramadan
Story by Staff Sgt. Alexander Riedel
407th Air Expeditionary Group
Airmen, Marines, Sailors and coalition partners co-located with the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, gathered May 10 to learn more about the history and culture of the upcoming month of Ramadan.
The 407th AEG chaplain’s office organized the event, hosting two guest speakers, who shared their religion, culture and experience with the uniformed audience.
“Ramadan is a very important part of our religion and culture,” said Bana Azizi, one of the volunteer presenters. “It is a time of sacrifice but also of spiritual (focus) and charity. It is a beautiful time.”
Ramadan is considered to be a "month of blessing" and commemorates the occasion of Allah calling on Muhammad as he journeyed through the desert of modern day Saudi Arabia, near Mecca, revealing the first verses of what would later become the Quran.
This year, in the lunar calendar used by many Muslims, Ramadan 2017 will begin in the evening of May 26 and ends in the evening of Saturday, June 24, although dates and observance may vary depending on location and orientation of faith.
Ramadan marks the most important time of the year for Muslims, who are required by their faith to fast during daylight hours. This fast is part of the five pillars of Islam along with shahada (confession of faith), salat (prayer), zakat (almsgiving) and hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca).
During the night, however, the faithful break their fast as they partake in meals with family and friends. These occasions then culminate in Eid-al-Fitr, the festival that ends Ramadan in a much-anticipated celebration.
Ramadan is not only about denial throughout the day, said Chaplain (Capt) Rob Pitts, the 407th AEG chaplain. It also emphasizes loving ones neighbors through nightly meals and charitable giving.
“Ramadan is a good reminder for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to strengthen one's relationships,” Pitts said. “For some, the relationship with God and relationships with others are keys to spiritual fitness.”
Much like the dates for the month may vary slightly, the briefers explained not all Muslims celebrate Ramadan exactly alike. From subtle changes of when to break the fast to other variations – the holy month is celebrated by believers in their own way in an effort to honor their relationship to God.
“There is great power in understanding people’s diverse backgrounds,” Pitts said. “Many of us may not practice Islam, so this was a great opportunity for us to build bridges of understanding and awareness.
“Not everyone is alike,” Pitts continued. “We all have different backgrounds and stories to share. But when we come together to accomplish the mission, in a unity of effort, that diversity brings a lot of strength to the table.”
The speakers shared an early example of breaking the fast by sharing dates with those in attendance and left their audience with a simple tip on how to positively support those actively participating in Ramadan – by using the friendly phrase “Ramadan Kareem – to you and your family,” as a way to share well-wishes with friends and co-workers.
“I believe there are a lot more similarities than there are differences between all people,” Azizi said. “And if we can bridge some gaps, increase some understanding, it can build common ground for us to understand and respect each other – and ultimately allows us to celebrate our differences.”
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