Muslims in Oregon and throughout the world’s 1.8 billion Muslim population are observing Ramadan, which began on May 6.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which occurs about 11 days earlier each year. Therefore, over a period of 33 years, this 11-day difference makes Muslims, anywhere in the world, fast equally during the year, long days or short, hot or cold.

Fasting is an obligatory act for every healthy adult. People who are not healthy are allowed to break their fast and make up later for the days they missed. This includes women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing, and those who are sick or traveling. Elderly people and those with chronic diseases, who cannot fast at all, must feed a poor person for each day of Ramadan.

Fasting has been practiced by other faiths. Anyone can fast; however, fasting by Muslims has the following characteristics:

1. Timing: obligatory fasting is performed in Ramadan only (except for Ramadan makeup). Obviously, there is voluntary fasting during certain days of the year.

2. Methodology: Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking or marital sexual engagement from dawn to dusk. Before dawn, a light meal called Suhoor is served. At sunset, they break their fasting by having a main meal called Iftar, which brings together family members and sometimes relatives and friends.

3. Objective: for Muslims, fasting represents a significant experience in their faith. It is a personal act aimed at obedience to Allah and seeking the right perception of Him.

Muslims look at Ramadan as:

• A month of joy and blessing, not a month of starvation and unwelcome self-denial, as some might think. It is the month in which the Qur’an (the Muslim holy book) was revealed.

• A time of inner reflection and pure adherence to Allah's divine order.

• A reminder to refrain from forbidden deeds and immoral behavior.

• A time for a body-mind-spirit purification to control desire and temptation.

• A way to feel poverty and to cultivate empathy for others.

• A way to build a character and healthy body and mind needed for creative thoughts.

• A period of gaining self-discipline and courage to overcome any hardship with enthusiasm and determination.

• A way to promote social cohesion based on love, devotion, equality, humility and patience.

Fasting during Ramadan brings the community together into one act and one feeling. All Muslims, regardless of color, gender or economic status, come together for this collective worship. They do it sincerely for Allah and Allah only — there is no authority to check whether a person is fasting or not. Thus, fasting may be thought of as a test of faith and honesty. It is truly a wonderful annual event full of positives.

The end of Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims emerging enriched and strengthened, both physically and morally. They start their celebration by attending a special collective "Eid" prayer held in the morning. They congratulate one another for completing their fast and extend greetings even to those with whom they are in dispute, starting a new page of love and respect.

Ramadan helps Muslims experience a renewal of life, and fills them with a revitalized sense of honesty and enthusiasm to work diligently and acknowledge their responsibility toward others.

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Dr. A.Y. Lafi is a published poet, educator, and engineer who worked for 25 years for Oregon State University, General Electric, Chicago Bridge & Iron, and Westinghouse. His writings have appeared in a variety of publications nationally and internationally.