WASHINGTON – Sandy Spring resident Sabir Rahman expects to get up at 4:30 a.m. Saturday and sit down with his family to a predawn breakfast of scrambled eggs and French toast.
The Rahmans will pray and eat. When the sun rises, the family — like Muslims around the world — will begin fasting during daylight hours for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The month began with the sighting of the new moon. Some of Maryland’s Muslims began Ramadan Friday, while others waited until Saturday. It will continue until mid-December, as Muslims purify the body and spirit, and practice willpower, self-discipline, perseverance and patience.
“It makes me remember the poor and all of the miserable people in the world,” said Rockville resident Yousef Abedellatif. “It makes me closer to the many people who can’t afford luxuries.”
Abedellatif said he does not consider himself a particularly devout Muslim, but that it is important to be observant during the month of Ramadan.
The American Muslim Council has urged American Muslims to say special prayers this year on behalf of Muslims and non-Muslims in distress around the world, including those in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, Russia and in the disputed region of Kashmir.
The fast is one of the five pillars of Islam, and marks the month in which God revealed the Muslim holy book, the Koran, to Mohammed though the angel Gabriel.
Most Muslims who have reached puberty are expected to fast during the holy month, but not all. The Koran does not require people who are ill, pregnant, weak or very old to fast, for example.
Because Sabir Rahman’s wife, Saeeda, has diabetes, she has not fasted for the last 10 years.
“God understands that I am sick,” she said.
Instead, she mails a $200 check to her sister, Khalida, in Pakistan. Khalida donates the money, which can be exchanged for about 12,000 Pakistani rupees, to someone in need.
“That money goes far,” Saeeda Rahman said. The person who receives the money “fasts for himself and for me. When the fast is over each day he eats well. And the money that is left over can buy clothing.”
Still, during Ramadan, Saeeda Rahman wakes before dawn each morning to pray and to cook breakfast for her family. Her husband likes scrambled eggs in the morning, even though his doctor has told him to cut back to two or three per week. Her son Raheil, 22, and daughter, Rubina, 21, both college students at University of Maryland, like pizza and French toast.
But other than fasting, the daylight hours during Ramadan are not very different from the rest of the year, Sabir Rahman said.
“Everything else is normal. My children go to school. I go sell houses,” said Rahman, who owns his own homebuilding and real estate businesses. “We do what we normally do every day of the year.”
During Ramadan, as he does throughout the year, he prays five times daily: in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, at sunset and again at night.
After sunset, the family breaks the fast, at home or with friends at the Muslim Community Center, of which Rahman is president. They eat a small snack, pray and then eat dinner.
Over the course of the month, the community’s imam, or prayer leader, must recite the whole text of the Koran. Each night after the evening prayer, he recites a portion of the text at the mosque on the site of the community center.
At night, the Rahman family tries to go to sleep early so they will be able to get up early the next morning.
“We will try to go to sleep early but we will not succeed,” Rahman said. “My family doesn’t like to go to sleep.”
On the 27th night of Ramadan, mosques stay open all night for prayer. Many Muslims consider it an especially spiritual night because it marks the night that the Koran was revealed to man.
In mid-December, Muslims will break the fast with a festival called Id al Fitr. Rahman said thousands are expected for services that day at the community center’s mosque in Silver Spring, where they will give presents, visit family and telephone relatives who are far away.
“We call our friends all over, in Pakistan and in America,” Saeeda Rahman said. “We wish them a happy holiday.”