Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Slowing Down For the Fast

Magnet # 316:  Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Material:  Resin

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

All around the world today, Ramadan is beginning. This is the time of the year when followers of Islam fast all day, refraining from eating, drinking, and sexual activity from dawn until sunset. This observance does not have a fixed date and it tends to vary from year to year. Often, it moves forward in the calendar year, which must be difficult for Muslims, as it gets into times with more and more daylight. And yet, they continue on, determined to purify themselves from past sins and receive guidance for their futures.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Arabian calendar, actually predates Islam. According to legend, the first verses of the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during this month.  Since those times, it has become the most important event in the Islamic calendar, overshadowing the Day of Ashura, when the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad perished in battle.  Not only do Muslims fast during Ramadan, they often also read the entire Qur'an and pray more often than usual.  The fasting finally comes to an end at Eid ul-Fitr, when the participants dress in their best clothes and join together at a feast in celebration of their accomplishment.

The structure featured on this magnet, Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, is perhaps one of the busiest mosques worldwide on this day.  It was built in the early 1600s and is Turkey's largest.  There are six minarets, or tall spires, featured on the structure, more than any other in Turkish mosque save the Sabanci Merkez Camii in Adana.  The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1619 under the leadership of Sultan Ahmed I.  With its beauty and majesty, it's become one of Turkey's most popular tourist destinations.  My parents were fortunate enough to visit it, and were very impressed by what they saw there.

While I've never participated in Ramadan, as I'm not Muslim, I did tutor a young Muslim girl who was living in Montgomery, Alabama with her family years ago - at that time, Ramadan was still in the fall. Her name was Fatima and she was from the United Arab Emirates. Although she was a child and didn't have to join in the fasting yet, she decided to try her best to do so anyway. She was the youngest daughter in her family, so they were proud of her decision. I noticed during that time that it was harder for her to think as quickly as usual when we studied and she wasn't as full of energy as she tended to be. But she kept on, doing her best and was happy to join in the festivities when they finally reached Eid ul-Fitr. Her actions inspired me so much that I later centered an art project around them. I know it wasn't easy on Fatima to fast for that entire month, but she didn't give up, even though it would have been okay for her to do so.

For those who are beginning their monthlong fasting today, I wish you all the best.  I can't imagine how difficult it must be at times, and I greatly admire your perseverance.  Take care in the coming month, and I hope Eid is here before you know it!

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