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Ramadan Dishes Bring Relief – Nutritious and Light Ramadan Meals

Osman Kiranoglu prepares cacik

At Boston Kebab House, chef-owner Osman Kiranoglu, who grew up in Turkey making yogurt, cuts cucumbers to mix into cacik, a versatile dish during Ramadan. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

The Boston Globe, August 3, 2011
Omar Sacirbey, Globe Correspondent

Relief for a hot month of Ramadan

Dishes reward both memory, faithfulness

As the son of a goat, sheep, and cow herder in the tiny northeastern Turkish village of Rize (REE-za), Osman Kiranoglu grew up making and eating lots of yogurt. Today, Kiranoglu parlays his fluency in yogurt as the chef-owner of the Boston Kebab House in Liberty Square.

Kiranoglu counts on his experience again during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began Monday, when observant Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk to remember the hardships of the poor. “This year, it’s going to be very difficult,’’ Kiranoglu says. “Long days. Hot.’’ For religious holidays, Muslims follow a lunar calendar, whose year is about 10 days shorter than the solar-based Gregorian calendar. This means that the first day of Ramadan always falls about 10 days earlier than the previous year. For example, Ramadan is likely to start around July 21 next year, and July 11 the year after, and so on.

It takes about 35 years for Ramadan to travel through the solar calendar, so it will be a good seven or eight years before it leaves summer for the shorter, milder days of spring.

Cacik: the perfect summer dish

Until then, Boston-area Muslims have a bevy of dishes for either suhur, an early morning breakfast that precedes the fast, or iftar, the meal after the fast, with which to sustain them during this fasting month. Kiranoglu’s go-to summer recipe is cacik, a combination of yogurt, cucumbers, fresh dill, and mint, which can be served thin for a soup, or thick for a tangy bread dip. “If you go to any house in Turkey, they give you this,’’ says Kiranoglu, who learned the recipe watching his mother in the kitchen and, as the oldest of six children, knew how to make cacik by the time he was 9 or 10.

Cacik has several advantages during a hot summer Ramadan. It is fast, easy, and doesn’t require an oven or stove, and the yogurt helps rehydrate the body after a long day without fluids. It is also deliciously refreshing, as soup and dip, led by the saltiness of the yogurt, followed by the tanginess of the dill, finished with the sweetness of the mint.

Chickpea and roasted red pepper salad: nutritious but light

Ahmad Yasin, owner of Yasin Culinary, a catering company and cooking class studio in Watertown that specialize in Arabic cooking, also has fond memories of Ramadan in northern Syria, where he grew up. “The most beautiful time of the day is when everyone is rushing home after work, before iftar, to be with the family and prepare the food,’’ says Yasin.

Among the dishes he learned to prepare, and one of his favorites, is chickpea and roasted red pepper salad, with chili pepper, black or green olives, thyme, and parsley. It’s a tasty dish packed with protein and vitamins that recharge the body, but light enough for Muslims to respect the dietary advice of the Prophet Muhammad, says Yasin. “You shouldn’t eat until you’re hungry, and you shouldn’t overindulge, so you can work and pray.’’

Another prophetic tradition with nutritional value, Muslims say, is always breaking the fast with dates, which are high in sugar. The theory is that hunger is caused not by an empty stomach, but low blood sugar. A few dates can quickly quell hunger, and prevent overeating after fasting. Typically, after a few dates to break their fasts, Muslims perform evening prayers, which take just a few minutes, before starting their meals.

Khushaf – sweet and refreshing

Sugar’s knack for mollifying hunger is also behind the popularity of khushaf, a mixture of dried fruits and nuts soaked in water until it becomes syrupy, consumed after the dates but before prayers. “It’s sweet and refreshing,’’ says Sana Fadel of Newton, who remembers the dish from childhood visits to relatives in Egypt, where the weather was “super-hot.’’

Qamar Ad-Deen: popular in Egypt

Dishes prepared from qamar id-deen, an apricot paste, also figure prominently during Egyptian Ramadans, Fadel says. Among the most popular are apricot drink, which frequently accompanies dates and khushaf, and apricot pudding as dessert.

This Ramadan, Fadel hopes to introduce khushaf to her two sons, who are too young to fast but old enough to enjoy a family tradition.

Omar Sacirbey can be reached at osacirbey@hotmail.com.

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Ramadan 2011 Photos – Muslims Getting Ready

Muslim women having Ramadan iftar in Italy

Muslim women having Ramadan iftar in Italy, 2008.

Ramadan has already started, but even before Ramadan began, Muslims all over the world were getting ready in many ways. Here are some photos of Muslims preparing for Ramadan in 2011 (and there’s one photo from 2008 as well – I came across it and found it interesting):

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Ramadan Announcement 2011 / 1432 AH

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Mubarak!

If you’re looking for the 2011 Eid Announcement, see: ISNA Eid Announcement 2011

Ramadan Announcement by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA):

First day of Ramadan will be Monday, August 1, 2011
and Eid ul-Fitr on Tuesday, August 30, 2011, insha’Allah.

“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” Qur’an 2:183

The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) recognize astronomical calculation as an acceptable Shar’ia method for determining the beginning of lunar months including the months of Ramadan and Shawwal. The FCNA & ECFR use Makkah al-Mukarramah as a conventional point, and take the position that the conjunction must take place before sunset in Makkah and the moon must set after sunset in Makkah.

On the basis of this method the dates of Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr for the year 1431 AH are established as follows:

1st of Ramadan will be on Monday, August 1, 2011

1st of Shawwal, which marks the start of Eid ul-Fitr, will be on Tuesday, August 30, 2011.

Ramadan 1432 AH:
The Astronomical New Moon is on July 30, 2011 (Saturday) at 18:40 Universal Time (9:40 pm  Makkah time). Sunset at Makkah on July 30 is at 7:01 pm local time, while moonset at Makkah is 6:41pm local time (20 minute before sunset).  Therefore the following day Sunday, July 31, 2011 is not the 1st day of Ramadan.   First day of Ramadan is Monday, August 1, insha’Allah. First Tarawih prayer will be on Sunday night.

Eid ul-Fitr 1432 AH:
The Astronomical New Moon is on August 29, 2011 (Monday) at 3:04 Universal Time (6:04 am  Makkah time). On Monday, August 29, sunset at Makkah is 6:40 p.m. local time, while moonset is at 6:44  pm local time. Therefore, first day of Shawwal, i.e., Eid ul-Fitr is Tuesday, August 30, insha’Allah.

May Allah (swt) keep us on the right path, and accept our fasting and prayers. Ameen.  For more detailed information, please visit: www.fiqhcouncil.org or www.moonsighting.com

Sincerely,
Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi
Chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America

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The Meaning of Eid

Muslim family at Eid prayer

Muslim family at Eid prayer

Eid means “recurring happiness” or “festivity”. There are two such Eid in Islam.

The first is called Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast Breaking). It falls on the first day of Shawwaal, the tenth month of the Muslim year, following the month of Ramadan in which the Glorious Qur’an was revealed and which is the month of fasting.

The second is called Eid al-Adhaa (the Festival of sacrifice). It falls on the tenth day of Zulhijjah, the final month of the Muslim year. The Islamic Eid are unique in every way. To them there can be nothing similar in any other religion or any other sociopolitical system. Besides their highly spiritual and moral characteristics, they have matchless qualities.

Each Eid is a wholesome celebration of a remarkable achievement of the individual Muslim in the service of Allah SWT. The first Eid comes after an entire month of ‘absolute’ fasting during the days of the month. The second Eid marks the completion of Hajj to Makkah, a course in which the Muslim handsomely demonstrates his renouncement of the mundane concerns and hearkens only to the eternal voice of Allah SWT.

Each Eid is a thanksgiving day where Muslims assemble in a brotherly and joyful atmosphere to offer their gratitude to Allah SWT for helping them to fulfill their spiritual obligations prior to the Eid. This form of thanksgiving is not confined to spiritual devotion and verbal expressions. It goes far beyond that to manifest itself in a handsome shape of social and humanitarian spirit. The Muslims who have completed the fasting of Ramadhaan express their thanks to Allah SWT by means of distributing alms among the poor and needy on the first Eid before the prayer.

Eid also is a day of remembrance. Even in their most joyful times the Muslims make a flesh stall of the day by a plural session of worship to Allah SWT. They pray to Him and glorify His name to demonstrate their remembrance of His favors. Along with that course, they remember the deceased by praying for their souls, the needy by extending a hand of help, the grieved by showing them sympathy and consolation, the sick by cheerful visits and utterances of good wishes, the absentees by cordial greetings and sincere considerateness. Thus, the meaning of remembrance on the day transcends all limits and expands over far-reaching dimensions of human life.

Eid greetings

Eid greetings

Most of the imams when delivering the Eid khutbah will mention that Eid is a day of victory. The individual who succeeds in securing his spiritual rights and growth receives the Eid with a victorious spirit. The individual who faithfully observes the duties, which are associated with the Eid, is a triumphant one. He proves that he holds a strong command over his desires, exercises a sound self-control and enjoys the taste of disciplinary life.

Once a person acquires these qualities, he has achieved his greatest victory because the person who knows how to control himself and discipline his desires is free from sin and wrong, from fear and cowardice, from vice and indecency, from jealousy and greed, from humiliation and all other causes of enslavement.

Therefore, when he receives the Eid, which marks the achievement of this freedom, he is in fact celebrating his victory, and the Eid thus becomes a day of victory.

This is the proper meaning of an Islamic Eid. It is a day of thanksgiving, a day of festive remembrance and a day of moral victory. An Islamic Eid is all this and is much more because it is a day of Islam, a day of Allah SWT. Celebrate this coming Eid with the true imaan and taqwa. InshaaAllah, besides having enjoyment, we will be blessed by Allah SWT.

Source: islaam.org

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Eid Announcement 2010 – Eid-ul-Fitr is Friday Insha’Allah

Eid Mubarak from Zawaj.com

Eid Mubarak from Zawaj.com! (this amazing image is by Said Ibrahim of London, saidnapro.blogspot.com)

If you’re looking for the 2011 Eid Announcement, see:

ISNA Eid Announcement 2011

Announcement by Fiqh Council of North America and European Council for Fatwa and Research

The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) recognize astronomical calculation as an acceptable Shar’ia method for determining the beginning of lunar months including the months of Ramadan and Shawwal. The FCNA & ECFR use Makkah al-Mukarramah as a conventional point, and take the position that the conjunction must take place before sunset in Makkah and the moon must set after sunset in Makkah.

On the basis of this method the date of Eid ul-Fitr for the year 1431 AH is established as follows:

1st of Shawwal, which marks the start of Eid ul-Fitr, will be on Friday, September 10, 2010, Insha’Allah.

Eid ul-Fitr 1431 AH:

The Astronomical New Moon is on September 8, 2010 (Wednesday) at 6:30 pm Makkah Time. Sunset in Makkah on September 8 is at 6:31 pm. On that day, the moon in Makkah at sunset is below the horizon. Therefore, the first day of Shawwal, which marks the start of Eid ul-Fitr is on Friday, September 10, 2010, insha’Allah.

May Allah (swt) keep us on the right path, and accept our fasting and prayers. Ameen. For more detailed information, please visit: www.fiqhcouncil.org or www.moonsighting.com.

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How to worship in Laylat-ul-Qadr

Mecca mosque in Hyderabad India, on the first day of Ramadan

A view of Mecca Masjid, or mosque, during the evening prayers on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in Hyderabad, India, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008. AP / Mahesh Kumar A

Date: October 25, 2005Name of Mufti: IslamOnline Shari`ah Researchers

Topic: Recommended Acts of Worship in Laylat-ul-Qadr

Name of Questioner: Omar from United States

Question: As-Salam `Alaykum Warahmatullah Wabarakatuh ! Dear Sheikhs, given that the blessed night Laylatul-Qadr is approaching, we would like you to tell us what should we do in this night. Kindly inform us of the acts of worship that are recommended in this night?

Answer:

Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear brother in Islam, thank you very much for having confidence in us. We ask Allah to guide the whole Muslim Ummah to make the best use of the blessed days of Ramadan, and to seek the great blessings Allah grants His sincere servants during these days.

Laylatul-Qadr is the most blessed night. A person who misses it has indeed missed a great amount of good. If a believing person is keen to obey his Lord and increase the good deeds in his record, he should strive to encounter this night and to pass it in worship and obedience. If this is facilitated for him, all of his previous sins will be forgiven.

Praying Qiyam:

It is recommended to make a long Qiyam prayer during the nights on which Laylatul-Qadr could fall. This is indicated in many Hadiths, such as the following:

Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) relates: “We fasted with Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) in Ramadan. He did not lead us in Qiyam (Night Vigil Prayer) at all until there were seven nights of Ramadan left. Then he stood with us (that night, in Prayer) until one third of the night had passed. He did not pray with us on the sixth. On the fifth night, he prayed with us until half of the night had passed. So we said, ‘Allah’s Messenger! Wouldn’t you pray with us the whole night?’ He replied: ‘Whoever stands in Prayer with Imam until he (the Imam) concludes the Prayer, it will be recorded for him that he prayed the whole night…” (Reported by Ibn Abi Shaybah, Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi)

Point of benefit: Abu Dawud mentioned: “I heard Ahmad being asked, ‘Do you like for a man to pray with the people or by himself during Ramadan?’ He replied, ‘Pray with the people’ I also heard him say, ‘I would prefer for one to pray Qiyam with Imam and to pray Witr with him as well, for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “When a man prays with the Imam until he concludes, he’ll earn the reward of praying the rest of that night.”

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whoever stands (in Qiyam) in Laylatul-Qadr (and it is facilitated for him) out of faith and expectation of Allah’s reward, will have all of his previous sins forgiven.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). The phrase “and it is facilitated for him”, according to the version narrated by Ahmad, on the authority of `Ubadah Ibn As-Samit, means that a person is permitted to be among the sincere worshippers during that blessed night.

Making Supplications:

It is also recommended to make extensive supplication on this night. `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that she asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) “O Messenger of Allah! If I knew which night is Laylatul-Qadr, what should I say during it?” And he instructed her to say: “Allahumma innaka `afuwwun tuhibbul `afwa fa`fu `annee (O Allah! You are Oft-Forgiving, and you love forgiveness. So forgive me).” (Reported by Ahmad, Ibn Majah and At-Tirmithi)

Abandoning Worldly Pleasures for the Sake of Worship:

It is further recommended to spend more time in worship during the nights on which Laylatul-Qadr is likely to be. This calls for abandoning many worldly pleasures in order to secure the time and thoughts solely for worshipping Allah. This is based on the following Hadith narrated by `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her): “Upon entering into the last ten (of Ramadan), the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would tighten his Izar (i.e. he stayed away from his wives in order to have more time for worship), spend the whole night awake (in Prayer), and wake up his family.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) She also said: “Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) used to exert more efforts (in worship) on the last ten than on other nights.” (Reported by Muslim)

- IslamOnline.net, reprinted with some modifications from Islam.com

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27 Beautiful Photos of Ramadan Around the World

Palestinian girls prays at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem during Ramadan

Palestinian girl prays Jum’ah at Al-Aqsa Masjid in Ramadan

These 27 wonderful photos show Muslims all over the world worshiping in Ramadan, reading Quran, cooking, breaking their fasts, and striving to get closer to Allah.

The pictures really capture the diversity of our Ummah; our wealth of spirit even amid material poverty; the beauty of our rituals; and the vitality of our communities. Alhamdulillah.

These photos are courtesy of the Sacramento Bee and are from Ramadan 2008.

See also:

Ramadan around the world: 35 beautiful photos

18 lovely Ramadan photos

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18 More Lovely Ramadan Photos

Tehran, Iran: A woman leaves her shoes outside the Imam Khomeini Mosque in Ramadan.

Tehran, Iran: A woman leaves her shoes outside the Imam Khomeini Mosque in Ramadan.

These lovely Ramadan photos came from Time Magazine. They are actually from last year. Some of my favorites: the men resting in the masjid in Indonesia; people breaking their fast at the market in Bangladesh; the women praying in St. Louis, USA; the boys studying Quran in India; the woman leaving her shoes outside the masjid in Tehran; and the vendor selling Muslim caps in Karachi.

Photos like this really bring home the universality of our Ummah, and of Islam itself. We are privileged to have been honored by Allah with this deen. Let’s be grateful for every breath, every moment, and every chance to worship Allah and do good in the world.

See also:

Ramadan Around the World: 35 Beautiful Ramadan Photos

And our Ramadan archives:

Ramadan and Eid Articles and Photos

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Ramadan fasting has a healing effect on peptic ulcers

A peptic ulcer is a hole in the gut lining of the stomach, duodenum, or esophagus. A peptic ulcer of the stomach is called a gastric ulcer; of the duodenum, a duodenal ulcer; and of the esophagus, an esophageal ulcer. An ulcer occurs when the lining of these organs is corroded by the acidic digestive juices which are secreted by the stomach cells. Peptic ulcer disease is common, affecting millions of people yearly.
A peptic ulcer is a hole in the gut lining of the stomach, duodenum, or esophagus. A peptic ulcer of the stomach is called a gastric ulcer; of the duodenum, a duodenal ulcer; and of the esophagus, an esophageal ulcer. An ulcer occurs when the lining of these organs is corroded by the acidic digestive juices which are secreted by the stomach cells. Peptic ulcer disease is common, affecting millions of people yearly.
By Dr Muhammad Karim Islamabadi
September 4, 2007

Ramadan fasting has a healing effect on peptic ulcers as it curbs smoking which is recognised as a precipitating factor for the peptic ulcer. The whole gastro-intestinal system takes good rest for the first time in the whole year.

I feel pity for the stomach. I really feel pity for the stomach, intestines and infact the whole gastro-intestinal system. And this is so because the whole year, we never let this system take rest.

Apart from the three main meals, every few minutes, we pour something in our stomach, be it snacks, drinks, fruits or other eatables. None of us ever thinks that the food which we had already sent in before is being digested by the stomach and right when it has reached halfway, we dump some more into it only to disrupt the digestive work previously completed. This of course makes the food stay a longer time in the stomach which may result in dyspepsia, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome etc.

In contrast, Ramadan is the only period in which our gastro-intestinal system takes good rest as the Muslims observe fasting for the whole month. Digestion is not just the name of churning movements of the stomach and the absorption by the intestines, but it is a huge integrated system involving the nervous system (eg. vagus nerve) as well as hormone secreting glands.

So the whole gastro-intestinal system takes good rest for the first time in the whole year. As digestion begins in the mouth where the salivary glands secrete excessive saliva which carries hormones to act upon the food, the burden on the salivary glands and teeth is reduced in the month of Ramadan. The oesophagus takes rest during fasting as there is no food to require its propelling movements which push the food to the stomach. Similarly, the stomach and the intestines also take good rest as after completing the digestion and absorption of food consumed at Sehri time, they have nothing to do till Iftar time. Even glands like pancreas and gall bladder which secrete hormones also reduce their secretions as there is no food to demand their hormones.

Hence, there is substantial reduction in the gastrointestinal hormones like gastric juice, gastrain, gastric inhibitory peptide (GIP), motilin, vascoactive intestinal peptide (VIP),neurotension, enteroglucagon, neuropeptide Y, gallium etc. Lastly, the colon and the liver are also at ease during fasting.

In short, Ramadan lifts the heavy burden and strain which we have put on our gastrointestinal system and gives it what can said to be a refreshing annual vacation of 30 days. Now coming to the diagnostic possibilities of Ramadan fasting, a good number of patients who consult physicians with abdominal pain, suffer from peptic ulcers. The peptic ulcer can be gastric or the duodenal type. The occurence of abdominal pain in both gastric and duodenal ulcers is different in relation to the food intake. Duodenal ulcer pain, though variable usually occurs when the stomach is empty and the gastric ulcer creates pain after the food intake.

In normal days, the differentiation of the two entities is difficult to make as people eat frequently, but in Ramadan, an individual undergoes two stages. One during the fasting when his stomach is empty and the other after evening meal when the stomach is full. If the patient complains of abdominal pain while fasting, it will point to the possibility of duodenal ulcer and if the pain occurs after Iftar, then gastric ulcer will be the suspected diagnosis.

The peptic ulcer pain is variable and it may not occur in some patients. Similarly, in most of the duodenal ulcer cases, as soon as mild pain starts, the patient eats something due to which the pain disappears and the disease remains undiagnosed. This undiagnosed ulcer may later surface with perforation of the ulcer and haematemesis (vomiting of blood) which has a high mortality.

Bangladeshi orphan girls offer prayers before a Ramadan Iftar, or evening meal to break fast, organized for less privileged children by the Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008.  (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman)

Bangladeshi orphan girls offer prayers before a Ramadan Iftar, or evening meal to break fast, organized for less privileged children by the Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman)

In Ramadan, while fasting, the duodenal ulcer pain is more likely to surface and as there is no provision to relieve the pain with food, the patient may be forced to consult a physician who with the help of endoscopy can easily clinch the diagnosis. While examining the abdomen of a patient who is already fasting, a physician can easily palpate the tenderness as well as feel the oedema around the peptic ulcer region.

Ramadan fasting has a healing effect on peptic ulcers as it curbs smoking which is recognised as a precipitating factor for the peptic ulcer. It also has beneficial effects on inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia and gastritis.

Last, but not the least, imagine a person who has fasted for more or less 14-15 hours and is now ready to break his fast. His taste buds have taken good rest, so at Iftar, the food is going to taste more pleasant and enjoyable than ever before. This is yet another bounty of Ramadan. Allah’s Messenger Prophet Muhammad (saws) says: “There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord, then he will be pleased because of his fasting.”

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5 Ways to Reconnect with the Spirituality of Ramadan

Ramadan mubarak - Quran and spirituality in Ramadan

Ramadan in the West: How to reconnect with spirituality

By Dilshad D. Ali for Beliefnet.com

Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is special to millions of Muslims worldwide as a holy period dedicated to fasting, self-purification, and spiritual attainment. Every year the world’s Muslims redesign their life to focus on the goals of Ramadan: A whole-body awareness of God and a humble thankfulness for whatever blessings He has granted.

But Ramadan in non-Muslim countries can be more challenging, as Muslims try to navigate the requirements and recommendations of Ramadan–fasting from sunrise to sunset, fitting in the five daily prayers at their appointed times, attending special evening tarawih prayers at the mosque, and reading the Qur’an each day for an entire month–while juggling the demands of work, school, and family.

While I passed lunchtime in my junior high school guidance counselor’s office during Ramadan, or sneaked a date and water to break fast during an evening class in college, or grabbed five minutes in my editor’s office to pray at my first job, my cousins in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and in Pakistan enjoyed half-days at school and work and a week’s vacation for Eid-ul-Fitr, the holiday at the end of Ramadan.

But I figure, though it’s harder to fast and heighten spirituality when everyone around you isn’t joining in, it sure makes the inner striving more special. And 18 years of fasting in this country have taught me some valuable strategies for living a Muslim life in a non-Muslim society while enjoying both.

Here are five practices I’ve found helpful in simplifying and spiritualizing my Ramadan experience. And if you’re not a Muslim, these tips can be adapted to make your daily life a little more spiritual and uncomplicated.

1. Take the Remembrance of God Inward

Dhikr beads

Do as much dhikr as you can during Ramadan

Do dhikr (reciting short du’as, or supplications) silently while you’re driving, waiting in line somewhere, or doing endless household tasks. Keep a thasbi (the equivalent of a Muslim rosary) in your purse or pocket and use it to count off du’as.

Not Muslim? Spending whatever downtime you have to remember God or peacefully meditate is a great idea for everyone. Thousands of hours go by every year in our work commutes, in chauffeuring our kids around, in keeping the house going. Why not try to use that time to quiet our minds, remind ourselves of a higher being, and appreciate what we’ve been given?

2. Appreciate Technology, and Then Tune It Out

In past Ramadans I always went on a sort of technology crash diet–television, music, inane web surfing, and movies were all self-banned for 30 days. All the extra time was designated for reading Qur’an, praying, and reconnecting with my family. Well, crash diets never work in the long term, and technology does keep the world connected.

So the better thing to do is to use technology wisely: Use your email to stay in contact with friends and family and see how their month is going, get the news from television and the Internet, watch one favorite TV show to wind down, and use your ipod to listen to Muslim books or Qur’anic prayers. And then, when basic needs have been met, turn the technology off and take the extra time to pray and reconnect.

Not Muslim? The same rule can apply. Use the technology to do what you need to do for work and family. But then, instead of spending hours surfing the web or TV channels, fight the urge and tune out. Discover your family, and discover meditation and prayer. You can start slow–cut out an hour of web surfing (or one TV program) every week and build up.

The Al-Zaim family of Duxbury, Massachusetts sits, gathered together for their dinner after 7pm on September 14th, 2008, to break their Ramadan Fast. (Justine Hunt/Globe Staff Photo) #

The Al-Zaim family of Duxbury, Massachusetts sits, gathered together for their dinner after 7pm on September 14th, 2008, to break their Ramadan Fast. (Justine Hunt/Globe Staff Photo) #

3. Iftar as a Family

Having iftar as a family more often should be easier this Ramadan. Muslims follow a lunar calendar, which moves Ramadan back 10 days earlier each year. This year nearly half of the month will progress with iftar time being around 7 p.m.–late enough for the family to be home together. Breaking fast with the family is a great opportunity to appreciate one another’s holy efforts and discuss spiritual topics.

Not Muslim? The family dinner is a concept hammered home by family and social organizations. Even some television stations, like Nickelodeon, show promos advising us to “Make time for the family table.” A weekly or bi-weekly family dinner is a great time to reconnect, to learn about each other, and to discuss a designated list of topics that are of interest to your family.

4. Experiment with Sadaqa

Do new types of sadaqa (acts of goodness and charity), and take comfort that what you already do for family and friends is sadaqa as well. I used to get discouraged each Ramadan (especially once I was a parent), that I couldn’t properly do those things recommended to Muslims during Ramadan: Go for tarawih prayers in the evening, or read the entire Qur’an. But my mom and mother-in-law gave me sound insight: Everything you do for the comfort of your family is sadaqa and a way of worshipping God.

That being said, Ramadan is still a great time to try new acts of charity and goodness: Put aside a can of food a day and donate it all when the month is up; Cook a few dishes and take them to your mosque for those come there to have iftar; Volunteer at your child’s school for the month and offer to do a Ramadan presentation to explain why your child is fasting.

Not Muslim? Recognizing the things you do for family and friends as acts of goodness that are acknowledged by God is a great step toward achieving inner spirituality. But take a step out of your comfort zone to tackle one small charitable project each month, whether it’s donating a little money each day to your favorite charity or taking charge of your office’s annual volunteer project.

5. Reconnect with Your Community

For many Muslim Americans, about the only time they can find to go to the mosque is for Friday prayers, or on Sunday when scores of kids take part in Muslim Sunday school. During Ramadan, why not make the mosque an integral part of worship? Go there for as many tarawih prayers as you can, especially the end ones when the Qur’an is being completed. Pick one day a week and go to your mosque for iftar. It’s amazing how good we feel to see others fasting and striving as much as we are, and it can renew our strength to face the next week of fasting with vigor and joy.

Not Muslim? If you are religious, try visiting your church, synagogue, or temple outside of worship services. You may meet different people and partake in different experiences that can replenish your spiritual well. If you don’t favor any particular house of worship, designate some spot–a park or your backyard at sunset–where you feel some calm and visit it with family or friends, free of mental distractions, and with a focus on each other.

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Common health problems during fasting – preventing bad breath

Lions teeth

Seven simple steps to prevent bad breath

The holy month of Ramadhan is once again here, when Muslims all over the world are fasting. One of the most common complaints during fasting is the bad breath that people experience. This condition, in medical terms, is called halitosis. The Central Health Board (CHB) of Africa Federation advices on what causes bad breath and how can it be prevented.

Causes of bad breath can be broadly classified into local causes and systemic causes. Causative factors within the mouth are termed local causes. Causes due to factors or diseases of the body, such as diabetes, smoking, kidney disease and stomach upset are known as systemic causes. We will be limiting our discussion to local causes only.

Local Causes of Bad Breath:

Within the human mouth there are numerous kinds of bacteria, which, as by-products, give out sulphides and ammonia which are the main causes of bad breath. Hence the amount of bacteria has to be controlled, and conditions that cause them to thrive have to be eliminated.

Factors involved in the cleanliness of the mouth are:

  1. Poor oral hygiene caused by not brushing or improper tooth brushing technique
  2. A dirty tongue
  3. Cavities in the teeth
  4. Gum disease caused by plaque and tartar
  5. Dirty dentures, false teeth and other fixed appliances in the mouth

Preventing Bad Breath While Fasting

After having identified the causes, we can now deal with how to prevent bad breath, especially while fasting.

  1. Brushing one’s teeth after every meal, preferably early morning (at Sehri time)
  2. Flossing one’s teeth which means cleaning between the teeth using special thread called dental floss. Use of toothpicks is not advisable for this purpose.
  3. Use of a tongue scraper or using a toothbrush to clean the tongue.
  4. Use of an anti-bacterial mouthwash. A non-alcoholic mouthwash should be used as alcohol causes a dry mouth which can aggravate the problem.
  5. Cavities in the teeth should be filled promptly to prevent food accumulation within them.
  6. Removal of tartar on teeth by a dentist at least once every six months.
  7. Drink at least 2 –3 glasses of water at Sehri time.

clean tooth, happy toothA bad stomach can also cause bad breath so one would have to check on his diet during the holy month to prevent a stomach upset and halitosis.

Foul-smelling mouths are offensive to other people therefore it is important to spend some time and follow the simple precautions and methods mentioned to prevent this problem.

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