Ramadan: The Holy Month of Fasting

Muslims in my community and throughout the world are observing the month of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. It is the 9th month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar and Muslims fast all day long- from sunrise to sunset. They abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and all other physical wants and desires during the fast. This year, the fasting hours are especially long which makes it very challenging.

Why fast? Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a time of self-restraint, reflection, self-discipline, and generosity. It is an act of obedience to God. Muslims believe that fasting is a time for atonement, forgiveness, and bringing the Ummah (the Muslim brotherhood & community) closer. Some see it as a spiritual as well as a physical cleansing. Muslims do not see fasting as a burden, but rather a blessing.

Who is exempt from fasting? Pregnant, breastfeeding, and menstruating women are exempt from fasting. Travelers, the sick, and those who are afflicted with mental illnesses are also exempt. Those with long-term and mental illnesses are not expected to make up the days they missed, but the others need to do so before the next Ramadan. Young children are not expected to fast.

How does a Muslim begin to discipline himself/herself to go an entire day without eating or drinking? My Muslim friends have a plan for this. Here’s what one couple did for their child: When he was about eight years old, they started to encourage him to wake up early to participate in the before sunrise meal and fast for just a couple of hours. Each year, they encouraged him to increase his fasting hours. By the time he was 15 years old, he was fasting the entire day.

The meals – The morning meal (before sunrise) is called the Suhoor and the evening meal (after sunset) is called the Iftar. This year, my friends in the U.S. wake up as early as 3:15 A.M to begin their day. Most eat a heavy meal, but that doesn’t last for the entire day. “Hunger pangs and a growling stomach increase toward the end of the day, but that is where the discipline of fasting comes in”, said one friend. She continued to say that the hunger helps her to understand the sufferings of the less fortunate and reminds her not to take for granted all that God has given her and her family.

Iftar can be a small family meal at home or at the Masjid (Mosque) with the congregation. The fast is usually broken with water and dates as Prophet Muhammed did during his time. This is followed by a delicious dinner! I have participated in Iftar with my friends several times and each time I was pleasantly surprised at the calmness of everyone as they went about serving each other. I get very impatient when I am hungry!

English: Iftar is a meal used to break fasting...

Iftar is a meal used to break fasting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The culmination of the fast – the month of Ramadan culminates with the observance of Eid. It is a special day of prayer and good times with family and friends. There is a certain excitement in the air, especially for the children as they exchange gifts and wear their new clothes. It’s a day of reflection on the blessed month and looking forward to the next year’s Ramadan.

Ramadan Mubarak!

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Behold the Golden Hour

The Weekly Photo Challenge Says: In photography, the “golden hour” is the first and last hour of sunlight of the day.

Although I know almost nothing about photography techniques, I don’t let that interfere with my enthusiasm for taking photographs. I love taking photos! This week, I want to share with you photos I have of the golden hour.

The two Manhattan sunset photos were taken while I was on the Circle Line Cruise in NYC.

The Miami sunrise photo was taken on the Rickenbacker Causeway one morning when I rolled out of bed for an early walk.

I caught the Miami sunset while I was driving. I stopped the car, got out, took the photo, and did not even cause any traffic issues.

Catching the golden hour

Catching the golden hour

 

A letter to my teachers

In 2007, I wrote a letter to my teachers at Zeeburg Secondary School for an alumni magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine did not take off and I did not pursue any other means of sending my letter. Last month, I attended an event celebrating the 50th year of Zeeburg Government Secondary School and I came back home inspired to find my letter written six years ago. I plan on sending out my blog link so my teachers can finally read this thank you letter.

Although many of my readers here do not know of my school, I am sure that you’ve got at least one teacher who made a lasting impression in your life. 

June 2007

My Teachers,

Although I think of you often and thank you in my heart for educating, loving, and believing in me, I have never taken the opportunity to show you how grateful I am to all of you. This tribute is long overdue, but I hope that my penned thoughts can in some small way express my gratitude to you for your dedication in teaching and nurturing my young impressionable mind. I thank you for the exceptional role you have had in my life when I was your student and for the influence you continue to exert on me as I go through life’s journey.

As teachers, you rarely get to see the fruits of your labor or the extent of your harvest, but it is my wish that you become aware of how your teachings have impacted my life and have molded and shaped me into the person I am today. You not only taught me academics, you taught me how to live, laugh, and love. You helped me to recognize that knowledge does not only come from a book, but from experiences such as mistakes, failures, and setbacks.

In this letter, I pay homage and give accolade to all my teachers. I would like to recount and reflect upon specific experiences, but I want to make it too long. I have encountered teachers throughout my life; each of us is a teacher in our own right, but had it not been for the influential and exceptional educators I found in you, I would not have experienced some of the personal triumphs in my life. You have instilled in me a love for school and the pursuit of lifelong learning. Thank you, my teachers!

You were masters at observation – because of the different activities I had in school, I was sometimes placed at the center of attention where everyone’s eyes were upon me.  Many times I wanted to deflect that attention by giving a poor excuse for not being able to participate, but being observant and intuitive individuals, my teachers recognized my doubt and fear and always nurtured my confidence back into place. Thank you for teaching me to believe in myself.

It is said that “teacher expectation” is one of the most important attributes in a student’s success and I can truly say that I bear witness to this belief. Here’s an example of such expectation: I recall when I was about 14 years old one of my teachers sent a message for me to go see him in his office. I was surprised, for this teacher did not teach me any academic subjects. However, he had an administrative role and that got my knees knocking. My mouth was dry. I was scared.

Upon arriving in his office, he looked at me through his thick glasses hanging at the tip of his nose, gave me a reassuring smile, and invited me to take a seat. In a soft, gentle, and kind voice he explained to me the reason I was sitting in his office – my marks (grades) had fallen; they were not where they ought to have been. There was no reprimand or expression of disappointment, just a reference to my gender, age, and the possibility that there might be some reciprocity toward the boys who were paying me much attention. He did not ask me to improve my grades, he expected me to do so. When I left his office that day, I decided to never give him the opportunity to invite me again for such a discussion. Teacher expectation was high. The lessons I learned decades ago have become a part of who I am today. Thank you, Mr. Gobin!

Throughout my years at Zeeburg Secondary I spent much time with some of you, grappling with debate preparation, public speaking tips, and learning valuable life lessons that did not come in a textbook. Familiarity allowed me the enviable opportunity to ask questions that a typical teenager dared not ask of her teachers. My questions were given the attention they deserved, and were answered accurately. I must admit that the boldness I displayed as a teen has not in any way diminished with age! Thank you for satisfying my curiosity.

I would be remiss if I do not mention the valuable spiritual lessons I gained at my Bible Club meetings while in school.  Bible Club was an extension of the values I was getting at home and at my church. I can also say without hesitation that my ability to speak to an audience of my peers, as well as adults was certainly encouraged and nurtured during those meetings. Even today, I often reflect upon those lunch time meetings and bask in the warmth of those fond memories.  Thank you, Mrs. Tulsi for your love, care, and devotion.

My teachers remain a constant source of inspiration – your lessons serve and inspire me daily. Thank you for instilling in me the drive and ambition to embrace the noble profession of teaching. Yes, I am a teacher! Each day as I step into my 3rd grade classroom, I emulate your high expectations and love of teaching and learning. Like you, I am also touching lives, building bridges, and enabling dreams.  Like you, I am also planting seeds of possibilities. Like you, I may not see the fruits of my labor, but you have assured me that I can impact lives decades later.

My teachers, I thank you for your guidance, knowledge, skills, and expertise, but above all, I thank you for educating, loving, and believing in me.

With love and gratitude,

Elaine

Zeeburg Government Secondary School Photo taken in 2011

Zeeburg Government Secondary School
Photo taken in 2011