With this morning’s rising sun dawned the Islamic month of Ramadan — a sacred time for Muslims to commemorate when the Quran’s scriptures were first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

From now until Aug. 19 Muslims will fast from dawn until sunset.

Mamdouh El-Aarag, a board member of the Spokane Islamic Center, said Washington’s long days (15 hours average, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory) make fasting difficult at first. But, he said, with Allah’s help and with the right mindset the abstention becomes manageable.

“Things are easier when it comes to worshiping God,” he said.

During Ramadan Muslims fast from food, drink and sexual relations and also practice extra kindness, charity and prayers.

“It becomes a fast of the eyes, a fast of the hands. You don’t do bad things. Your actions are connected to good,” El-Aarag said. “It’s a chance to re-connect with God.”

Hanane Neff-Loutf, a member of the Islamic Center, echoed his words.

“It’s fasting from every desire basically. Through the fast of food we remember how important food is and appreciate that divine gift,” she said. “We do as much as we can. We give charity; we do a little bit extra. It’s training.”

Each evening at sunset Muslims will break their daily fast by eating an odd number of dates — like Muhammad did when he broke fast.

Dates, El-Aarag noted, help the liver kick in after a long day of not eating and drinking.

“Fasting is also a good way to cleanse the body. All your organs are cleansed. It’s an annual maintenance spiritually and physically,” he said.

At the Islamic Center, the community will read a nightly prayer at 10:30 called Taraweeh. On Saturdays after sunset they will have a potluck, which the entire Spokane community is invited to.

Many Muslims also read the entire Quran during Ramadan.

The fast will end on Aug. 19 with Eid-al-Fitr, which will include a community potluck.

“It’s all about celebrating together. The non-Muslim community should definitely come celebrate with us,” Neff-Loutf said.

For information visit the Spokane Islamic Center website.

Hanane Neff-Loutf is a SpokaneFAVS contributor.


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