Islam begins international month of fasting today

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Islamic Center of Tupelo is a modest building – only two small rooms for prayer, an office, a few rooms for children.
Their colorings and writing drills adorn the walls. The characters of their alphabet bring to mind children with sparklers tracing fiery curves against the night. Inside, the quiet is astounding.
It is the place where Islamic holy days and months are observed. It is a place of prayer.
Today is the beginning of one of the holiest of those times. It is the first day of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month which commemorates Muhammad receiving his revelations from God. Fasting, a suppression of desire meant to keep the mind in control of the body, is the central practice of Ramadan.
“Fasting is a secret worship,” said Halim Boumedjirek, one of the center’s founders. “When there is no one around to see you but God, will you keep the fast?”
Muslims will fast from dawn until sunset – about 16 hours per day – for 30 days, waking early to share a meal (Sahur) before the fast begins with the first of five daily prayers at 5:10 a.m.
Internally, it serves as a test of patience and self-control, Boumedjirek said, and externally helps curb obesity and lifestyle addictions, such as coffee and cigarettes, things we have convinced ourselves we need to make it through the day. Boumedjirek said every “religion of the book,” – referring to Islam, Judaism and Christianity – practices fasting.
“When you feel hungry, you will understand the impoverished, and it will make you merciful,” he said. Mercy, he said, is perhaps the greatest way to praise God.
During the day, Muslims will zealously study their holy book, the Quran, and pray. After dark they will break their fast by consuming dates, a sweet-tasting fruit of the desert, a meal families often share in the fellowship of one another.
The center, located at 2213 West Jackson St., functions solely on donated time and money. The people who work there do so around their day jobs and receive no pay for their services. Services are held in Arabic and English at 1 p.m. Fridays.
A special service commemorating Ramadan takes place today at the same time.
riley.manning@journalinc.com