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Spirit gains by fasting

Muslims reflect on their roles in life during Ramadan by abstaining from food, which ‘renews hope in God’s mercy.’

September 25, 2007|By Joseph Serna

In the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan, Muslims around the world fast daily from sunrise to sunset. While it is a time for sacrifice, reflection and renewed faith, this year, area Muslims are also focusing on reaching out to those of other faiths.

Imam Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Education Center of Orange County hosted an interfaith dinner Saturday with other local religious leaders in Costa Mesa.

“My speech focused on peacemaking,” Al-Qazwini said.

“It was a very informative and very interesting dinner,” said Greg Kelley, vice president of the Newport-Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council. Guests participated in a prayer and in the breaking of the fast, the first meal Muslims have after sunset each day during Ramadan.

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A range of topics were discussed, Kelley said, such as how local religious leaders should work together in times of tragedy, like 9/11.

“Ramadan is a season of self-obedience and self-reflection where we take some time to reflect on our life, on our deeds, on our role in this life, on our goals and dreams,” Al-Qazwini said. “We do that with the help of intense devotion, prayers, fasting and charity giving. It is a month that gives us a spiritual boost. It energizes our spirit and renews our hope in God’s mercy and God’s forgiveness. It’s a period of reflection.”

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with a profession of faith, prayer, alms-giving and the pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj. During Ramadan, Muslims are prohibited from eating or drinking anything — not even water — from roughly 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The sacrifice, sometimes exhausting, has a spiritual foundation not restricted to Islam.

“The source of a desire to sacrifice is to bring yourself to a level of humility, to realize that we aren’t the center. We are not the focus of life,” said Jaimie Day, director of interfaith relations for the Newport Beach Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who was also at Saturday’s Ramadan dinner. “Religion is based upon a love of God more than a love of self. When you fast your physical body, you feed your spiritual self.”

Ramadan this year began on Sept. 13 and concludes Oct. 12 at sunset.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year when the Koran was sent down to provide guidance. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from food, drink and sex. Muslims must also abstain from wicked thoughts and deeds. It is regarded as a time of sacrifice, reflection and obedience to God. Ramadan’s beginning and end depend on when a witness announces the new moon has been seen, so cloudy skies could prolong the fasting. Muslims celebrate the fast’s end on ‘Id al-Fitr, one of the two major Islamic holidays.


JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at joseph.serna@latimes.com.

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