Thursday, December 28, 2000

Muslims mark culmination of holy month

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP — Thousands of Muslims gathered Wednesday at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati to celebrate the culmination of a month of prayer, fasting and giving of themselves.

        Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of Fastbreaking, marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which observant Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk, and practice self-examination and forgiveness.

        Since Islam uses a lunar calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary from year to year. This year, the holiday coincided with other religions' December holidays.

        “Ramadan itself is about several different things,” said Karen Dabdoub, the center's administrator. “It's a month to learn self-im provement, a time for us to better ourselves, to fast during the daylight hours.

        “Through fasting, through prayer, through reading the (Koran) and through charity we can learn to improve ourselves as human beings.”

        The holiday began early with morning communal prayers at the mosque. More than 3,000 women and men listened to recitations from portions of the Koran, which Muslims believe is a record of the exact words revealed by God to the prophet Muhammad.

        It was Zeinab Shalaby's first time attending the holiday prayer service. The West Chester woman, originally from Egypt, was dressed in traditional clothing, including a head scarf. She said after fasting it's good to gather in prayer as a group.

        “After fasting you celebrate, you come together,” she said. “We share some prayers and people will visit each other and the kids will receive presents.

        “It's a nice time to get together and see each other.”

        The faithful also give to charity at this time, since a month of hunger has made them feel closer to the needy. A special donation called fitrah was collected from the head of the household in each family.

        This year, it was calculated at $7 per person in each household for Muslims in the United States. It is money used only for the needy and must be paid during Ramadan before the prayer service begins.

        “It is calculated at an amount that should feed one person during one day,” Mrs. Dabdoub said.

        After joyous Eid greetings, families hosted open houses Wednesday and shared their ethnic traditions, including food. Many children were out of school for winter break, and some parents took off work.

        Followers say there is joy for those who have fulfilled the obligations of Ramadan. They believe God forgives their sins, and they have a clean slate.

        Chekour Abdelghani, a University of Cincinnati student from Casablanca, Morocco, said it was his first time in the mosque.

        “It's a chance to meet and to get to know Muslims from all over the world,” he said. “When you achieve a holy month, you are proud of yourself.”

        It's very important in a Muslim's life, he explained.

        “You are enduring and feeling what other people, the poor, feel. You are living the state of other people.”


               • During the month of Ramadan: Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations.

        • About the fast: Although fasting is beneficial to a person's health, Muslims regard it principally as a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, the fasting person gains sympathy with those who go hungry - as well as in one's spiritual life.

        • Eid al-Fitr: A feast commemorating the end of Ramadan. The holiday, or Feast of Fast-breaking, begins with a congregational prayer service at the mosque. During the day, families visit friends and children receive gifts of money, new clothes, candy and toys. The day usually ends with a family feast.


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