Ramadan teaches restraint, patience
By Leon Lagerstam, Staff writer
Ramadan, a month-long Islamic fast, ends with a new moon, and
hopefully a new understanding.
A lot of rage, anger, oppression and talk of war is heard around
the world, but Ramadan seeks to replace aggressive thoughts and
behaviors with ideals of peace and charity, according to Imad Benjelloun,
prayer leader and chairman of the Islamic Center of the Quad Cities.
"Ramadan is all about abstaining from doing what is wrong,
and training oneself to do what is righteous,'' he said.
Ramadan is the month of the Islamic lunar calendar during which
Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from
dawn to sunset, according to materials provided by the center. It
ended with the sight of a new moon earlier this week.
Members of the Quad-Cities Muslim community gathered Friday night
at the Clarion Hotel in Davenport for an "Eid ul-Fitr'' fast-breaking
feast. Muslims worldwide observe Ramadan and its concluding feast.
Demographers say Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions,
estimating about 1.2 billion Muslims exist in the world, including
seven million in America. The Quad-Cities Muslim community totals
several hundred people, but less than 1,000, Mr. Benjelloun said.
Some people were worried about how Ramadan would fit into the picture
of instability and insecurity in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001,
and the turmoil and unrest seen around the world, he said.
However, no negative impact was seen locally, Mr. Benjelloun said.
In fact, people from the community have asked many more questions
about Ramadan and Islam since the terrorist tragedies, "and
we're reaching out more and making many bridges,'' he said.
The numbers of people converting to Islam have skyrocketed since
9/11, said Khadija Evans of East Moline. She and her husband, Muhammad
Evans, were among them.
"I converted Dec. 11 last year, which was about halfway through
Ramadan, so I didn't fulfill the obligations, and didn't understand
it yet,'' Mrs. Evans said. Since then, she's learned to read the
Quran and prayers in Arabic and studied her new faith, saying it
has answered many more questions she had in her life, making it
fuller, and giving her a clearer understanding of the purpose of
"After 9/11, the media were saying a lot of things portraying
Islam in a negative light,'' she said. "After reading many
different things and looking it up on the Internet, I came to the
conclusion the media were wrong, and I came to realize Islam was
the true religion, and, in my heart, I knew I had to convert.''
Medical conditions, however, prevented her from observing Ramadan
fasting requirements this month. Exemptions are granted for a variety
of reasons, including medical ones. Other exemptions are given to
children, menstruating or pregnant women, nursing mothers, mentally
incapacitated people, elderly folks and travelers journeying more
than 50 miles.
Those people have to either make up the fast on other dates or
donate money to feed the hungry, Mrs. Evans said. She and her husband
previously worked at the River Bend Food Bank, so they chose to
donate to local hunger efforts.
"Ramadan helps you care about people,'' Mr. Benjelloun said.
"It reminds you that other people are hungry and are suffering,
and it pushes you to contribute more. It really contributes to solving
a big problem in society -- narrowing the gap between the poor and
A lot of fundraising takes place during Ramadan, he said, and "Muslims
tend to give money from the bottom of their heart.''
Mr. Benjelloun compared Ramadan to a "training station.''
"It trains a person to be patient and righteous,'' he said.
"It trains you to be a better person in your family and in
your community, and to be a better servant to God the Almighty.''
He summarized Ramadan's importance by using the term "taqua,''
which he says means to be "on guard.''
"Basically, you must be on guard in every action you perform
in your life,'' Mr. Benjelloun said. "Before you do anything,
you need to make sure it pleases God the Almighty, and if it pleases
God, it won't hurt anyone.''
Ramadan focuses on individual human beings, he said. If a human
being learns to restrain himself from making wrong decisions, it
carries on through his family, community and country, and could
make the planet Earth entirely peaceful, he said.
World peace, however, is unlikely, when 100 people try to destroy
what one person is trying to build, Mr. Benjelloun said.
"Our world lacks justice everywhere, especially at the international
level,'' said Moutaz Kotob of Bettendorf. Many people don't realize
that Muslims actually believe in "justice for all,'' he said.
Giving presentations at schools, churches and organizations help
reduce such misunderstandings, making it easier to know and live
with each other, Mr. Kotob said.
Living in the Quad-Cities makes it easier to practice her faith,
Mrs. Evans said.
"In other parts of the country, there have been attacks on
people,'' she said. "I'm lucky to live in this area. I'm not
sure whether it's a case of tolerance, but I think it's actually
more of a case of acceptance.''
The worst she's heard from people are comments under their breath,
but said she felt sorry for them, not angry.
Mr. Benjelloun admits some Muslims may have forgotten what Ramadan
is really about, saying "you'll always find people who are
not going to do what they are supposed to be doing, but generally,
people do know what it is and act accordingly.''
Ramadan, he said, is one of the "five pillars'' of Islam.
Not eating or drinking is not the goal of Ramadan, Mr. Benjelloun
said. "It's just a means. If you can train yourself not to
eat or drink, you can train yourself some patience. If you have
patience, you have power to be a better person in the community
and to God the Almighty.''
Friday's fast-breaking feast "celebrates all the righteous
acts and good behaviors we have been able to train ourselves during
the month of Ramadan,'' he said.
It's one of two big feasts for Muslims, Mr. Benjelloun said. The
other one "Eid Adha'' celebrates the pilgrimage to Mecca, scheduled
two months and 10 days after Eid ul-Fitr.