Muslims begin holy month with 'heavy hearts' for Middle East


Muslims in Alabama and around the world began daytime fasting on Wednesday for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Recent violent clashes in the Middle East have cast a somber shadow over Ramadan this year, said Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society.

“We start this Ramadan with a lot of prayers for peace in the world,” Taufique said.

“It’s a very spiritual time and somber time for Muslims all over the world,” he said.

He blamed President Donald Trump for a spike in violence between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Gaza.

“This administration has shown a lack of understanding of what’s gone on in the past, and unilaterally declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Taufique said. “That is very bothersome. We start Ramadan with heavy hearts.”

Muslims abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from the break of dawn until sunset each day of Ramadan. Each night, they break the fast with a communal meal.

“We pay attention to our spiritual lives,” Taufique said.

The Birmingham Islamic Society welcomes groups of other faiths to join them to observe their prayer rituals and share the evening meal at the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center.

“We open our doors all year, but especially during Ramadan,” Taufique said.

 The fast is performed to emphasize discipline, self-restraint and generosity, while obeying God’s commandments, Taufique said. Fasting, along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the “five pillars” of Islam.

“Today was the first day of fasting,” Taufique said. “We started our late-night prayers last night.”

About 350 people attended the late night prayers and large crowds are expected throughout Ramadan, Taufique said.

“New people are coming,” Taufique said. “There is something about Birmingham that is attracting people. Muslims are no exception.”



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