When Muslims as diverse as humanity began their fast for the holy month of Ramadan last weekend, President Obama commemorated the observance in his traditional way and that of other recent White House occupants.
“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world at the start of Ramadan,” said the president in his 2012 message. “For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of fasting, prayer, and reflection; a time of joy and celebration. It's a time to cherish family, friends, and neighbors, and to help those in need.”
Observant Muslims fast from dawn until sunset during the month, seeking a closer relation to the Creator and more sympathy toward fellow human beings. Most rise for the pre-dawn meal, sahoor, to help sustain them during the day, and gather at sunset in homes or in mosques for the fast-breaking meal, iftar. “Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem” – or “Blessed Ramadan” – are oft-heard greetings.
More significant than forgoing food and drink, and other natural urges such as sexual relations, is increased recommitment to God and acts of kindness and charity. Muslims also try to read the entirety of the Quran, God’s revelation to the Prophet Muhammad, during the month that ends with the Eid holiday, several days of joyous gratitude and gift-giving.
“Here in the United States, Ramadan reminds us that Islam is part of the fabric of our nation, and that from public service to business, from healthcare and science to the arts, Muslim Americans help strengthen our country and enrich our lives,” the president said. “Even as Ramadan holds profound meaning for the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, it is also a reminder to people of all faiths of our common humanity and the commitment to justice, equality, and compassion shared by all great faiths.
“In that spirit, I wish Muslims across America and around the world a blessed month, and I look forward to again hosting an iftar dinner here at the White House. Ramadan Kareem.”
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