CARBONDALE — Sumera Makhdoom and her family were up at 2:30 a.m.. Saturday, Osaka, Japan, time, eating Japanese noodles, cookies, croissants and brownie and drinking coffee, in preparation for the next 30 days of no-eating and no-drinking during the daylight hours.
This year, the family celebrated the start of the Ramadan in Japan, where husband and father gastroenterologist, Dr. Zahoor A. Makhdoom, is attending a medical conference.
Back in the Makhdooms' home of Southern Illinois, fellow Muslims were expected to arise before dawn, if they want to have food, before they start their observance of one of the holiest months in Islam, Ramadan. Its observance starts during the last full moon of the Islamic calendar year.
In this country, Ramadan was expected to start Friday evening and run through Saturday, June 24; local Muslims are expected to celebrate by breaking the fast at the Carbondale Muslim Center, 530 N. Wall St., at 8 p.m. Sunday, Makhdoom said.
“Ramadan is one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar, where the holy book … the Quran, was revealed to Prophet Mohammed by the angel Gabriel,” she said. “So these 30 days we have to fast from dawn to dusk ... that is about us showing self-restraint and understanding (for others)."
Many people could be observing this period, as almost one-fourth of the world's population, about 1.6 billion people, are Muslim, according to a 2010 Pew Research Center study.
About 3.3 million Muslims live here in the United States, making up about 1 percent of the U.S. population. The Pew Research Center's 2014 Religious Landscpe Study indicated that 65 percent of the Muslims in this country are immigrants.
Here are some of Makhdoom's answers to questions about the Muslim holy day:
Q: What does the word 'Ramadan' mean?
A: The word Ramadan is actually the name of the ninth month on the Islamic calendar.
Q: What is the purpose of Ramadan?
A: This is one full month to teach us respect for those who do not have enough to eat; to have us sacrifice our body, for the sake of God; to spiritually wash us clean; and to physically cleanse us, by releasing toxins from the body. God has ordained for all of the Abrahamic religions (Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths) to fast and this is ours.
Q: What will people notice about observant Muslims?
A: If I'm at work, they will definitely see that I’m not having lunch or drink, so we would not be eating anything (during the daytime). We will not chew gum, and we will be refraining from smoking. People should not be using bad language or fighting each other, in general, but especially during the month of Ramadan.
Q: Will all Muslims be observing the fast and other restrictions?
A: Not all. Children who have not reached puberty and nursing mothers do not have to fast. Anyone who is not healthy physically, they are not required to fast. Anyone who feels like it is a hardship on them, spiritually or physically ... they don’t have to fast … They have to make it up later (by, for instance, fasting later or feeding people who are hungry or buying food, in an amount equal to what the buyer would eat, for someone who is hungry).
Q: How does the fast end?
A: The end of the fast is marked by the Muslim day Eid-al Fitr, a holiday celebration feast, typically with plenty of food.
Where can I find more information?
A: For more information on Ramadan, visit https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-ramadan-2004619.