We live in a world of constant change that occurs at both regular and surprising intervals.
Some change is welcomed, other times change is dreaded.
For millions of Muslims across the globe, the month of Ramadan remains a constant. This year, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims will resume their practice of waking up before dawn, eating a morning meal (Suhur), and remaining without food and drink until the breaking of their fast (Iftar) at sunset.
Ramadan this year is June 18-July 18, dates determined by the lunar calendar.
Muslims in North Texas will typically stop eating and drinking at about 4:30 a.m. and will eat and drink again at about 8:40 p.m.
This means that we will refrain from all food and drink for about 16 hours each day.
After we “break the fast” and regain energy, we begin the process of special night prayers.
These prayers may be seen as an extension of the discipline and worship that takes place throughout Ramadan.
You may be thinking this faith practice is not for the weak-hearted!
Although this is relatively true, Muslims cherish Ramadan and look forward to this holy experience because it allows us to spiritually renew ourselves and to rekindle our bonds with God and each other.
We know that fasting is not unique to Islam. Various forms of fasting exist in many faith traditions, and all profess a similar theme of self-discipline and mindfulness toward God.
My family and I fast because it is a required part of our faith. It is one of the five major foundations, or “Pillars” of Islam.
However, the act of fasting is not merely the act of refraining from food and drink. It forces us to move away from thinking about materialistic issues and to focus on matters of the soul.
Fasting helps us to become more present and aware. It allows us to acknowledge that we have a tendency to take much for granted.
For me, it helps me control my temper and divert my attention to more serious issues that are occurring in my world and around the globe.
Plain and simple, fasting teaches me to become a more virtuous human being.
It is as if the mere act of fasting and love toward God quenches the soul.
During Ramadan, our family looks forward to waking up in the middle of the night and eating breakfast together.
Of course, it is very quiet and the quiet offers a special time for us to focus and reflect upon each other.
We typically break our fast with a date and sweet drink. We pray the sunset prayer, and we then enjoy a festive dinner together.
We know this special time allows us to renew our love and respect for each other.
Fasting is actually very healthy for the body. For some practicing Muslims, Islam is a religion with a built-in wise approach to dietary concerns.
It resets the immune system and allows vital organs to function more efficiently.
Expecting mothers, young children, elders and those with debilitating illnesses are exempt from fasting during the month.
In fact, those who just find it too difficult to fast because of various circumstances may compensate their lack of fasting by providing food for the hungry and homeless.
Whoever enters the mosque at Iftir is welcomed and served.
The Islamic faith is built upon concepts of peace, discipline, love and morality. That is the only Islam I know.
During this Ramadan, the Muslim community and I pledge to become better friends, kinder neighbors, more engaged and honorable citizens to those we live among and share our lives.
We stand with you and God requires nothing less of us.
Asra Khan is a board member of the Multicultural Alliance in Fort Worth.