Bay City News Service—A month of fasting is set to begin today for Muslims in the Bay Area and beyond as the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan, arrives.
The Muslim tradition of fasting during the day lasts for about 30 days and involves abstaining from food, water and other everyday comforts.
Throughout the night Muslims may eat and drink sparingly to stay "mindful of what you are putting into your body," said Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area Council on American-Islamic Relations. Billoo urges non-observers to be mindful of Ramadan, and wish fellow neighbors, coworkers and friends a "Happy Ramadan."
Following the month of fasting comes the festival of Eid, which falls on Sunday, Aug. 19, this year — the equivalent of Christians' Christmas, with plenty of food to break the long fast. The month of extreme moderation — which falls at different times each year because it is based on the lunar calendar — teaches the "idea of cultivating self-control," Billoo said.
She said the most common question she is asked about the holiday is, "You don't get to drink water either?" or "Wait, why do you do that?"
For the executive director, the month shows "you can learn to control your desires" and keeps observers mindful year-round.
Billoo said in the Bay Area there are about 50 mosques and many will be participating in open houses throughout the month to share the Muslim tradition with the greater community. Soon-to-be-announced interfaith iftars, or fast-breaking meals, are planned throughout the summer in the Bay Area, Billoo said.
Although the month focuses on self-refection and control, many practitioners choose to look beyond their deprivation and give to charities the required 2.5 percent tithing during this period, Billoo said. Other Muslims in the Bay Area plan to volunteer at shelters, showing the ultimate sacrifice by serving food to the hungry while fasting, she said.
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