Lawton Muslims observing Ramadan
Muslims in Lawton are observing the holy month of Ramadan month by fasting, praying and giving to charity.
This year Ramadan started on the evening of June 17 and will end on the evening of July 17.
Jawad Drissi, president of American Muslim Association of Lawton, said Ramadan is a month in which Muslims try to be closer to God, Allah, through physical and behavioral practices.
"At a physical level, people do not eat or drink from dawn to sunset, do not smoke and do not engage in sex," Drissi said. "On the behavior level, people do not get angry, talk loud to others or show bad behavior and focus on spiritual tranquility."
Drissi said observing this month is not for God, who does not need anything from people, but for the people themselves.
"We are supposed to pray five times a day during the year where we take five- to 10-minute breaks from daily activities, and you can call that meditation or relaxation from everyday activities," Drissi said. "We fast and we also focus on praying more than usual this month so that we have more concentration and can be more aware and conscious."
Syed Ahmed, economics professor at Cameron University and a member of the association, said the month has great spiritual significance for Muslims.
"We believe that it was in the last 10 days of this month that the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad," Ahmed said. "It is also called the night of power when we hold special prayers."
"There are five pillars of Islam and one of the pillars is fasting during the month of Ramadan," Ahmed said. "Another pillar of Islam is giving charity and Muslims are encouraged to give charity to the poor and underprivileged during this month."
Fasting during Ramadan also helps Muslims empathize with those who may not always have enough to eat, Ahmed said, and become more compassionate about the suffering of others.
"Fasting is not required for people who are sick, elderly, traveling or pregnant," Ahmed said. "If one cannot fast under special circumstances, then they can recover that by donating food or by making it up later."
Ahmed emphasized that fasting can also be because it cleanses the body.
"When I lived in Canada, my allergies were gone while fasting during the month of Ramadan," Ahmed said.
Drissi said it is important to note that fasting is not unique to Muslims, but other faiths also encourage fasting in different ways.
Drissi said there are about 30 to 40 Muslim families in Lawton who gather for nightly prayers during Ramadan, and Muslim soldiers stationed at Fort Sill also join the prayers.
"In Bangladesh the month of Ramadan is festive, markets are busy, people gather to pray. The celebration is in the air," Ahmed said. "It may be different here, but the month's spirituality is present and I am thankful that America is a country that guarantees religious freedom to all allowing people of different faiths to practice their beliefs."
Abdulhamid Sukar, economics professor at Cameron, talked about the significance of fasting in Islam.
"Quran states that fasting is prescribed for Muslims so that they remain cautious of God and to do what is right and refrain from what is bad," Sukar said. "Fasting is a form of spiritual uplift, self-discipline, self-restraint and self-control."
Sukar noted that Ramadan is a month of charity when Muslims provide more charity to needy than any other month.
"On the night before or on the morning of Eid, festival of fast breaking, Muslims must give money for charity," Sukar said. "Here in the United States families pay about $10-12 per person in the family. The money collected is used to feed the needy here in the States and around the world."