CAIRO - Sharing the feelings of the poor and disadvantaged for thirty days, California Muslims started Ramadan fasting by abstaining from food and water from dawn to dusk, emphasizing their empathy for the less fortunate.
"The goal of Ramadan is that it teaches us that as you are feeling hungry to look to the needy and hungry who do not have food," Imam Shamshad A. Nasir, of Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino city in California, told SB Sun newspaper.
"Islam teaches humanity that first we should care for other people, not just ourselves ... it is not fair that you have a good house, car, business or job and you don't (recognize) your neighbor is sleeping hungry, and you don't care, that is totally wrong in Islam," he added.
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Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur'an and good deeds.
During Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
There are two parts of it - you're sacrificing the comfort of life, not just the food, but the sleep and the rest, said Monas Chaudry, 50, of Brea.
And then you wake up weary in the morning and indulge in prayer and eat a little bit. It's not that you get used to it.
Living comfortably in US, Ramadan offered Muslims a good opportunity to sympathize with the less fortunate.
"We are lucky," Imran Jattala, a Muslim resident in Rancho Cucamonga, said.
"And here we are in air-conditioning buildings."
Jattala agrees that while it does get easier not to eat and drink, you do not get used to it.
"And I think that's the point, to get used to the idea that this is what hunger is like and this is what (being thirsty) is like," he said.
"Two of the common issues in the world today are scarcity of food, and in a large part of the world it's water."
Abstaining from food and water for long hours every day, the Muslim community sees the sacrifice worth making.
After sunset, a free iftar is served daily at the Baitul Hameed Mosque for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
"This is just a little effort on our part to remain hungry and thirsty ... but the reward is very heavy from God," imam Nasir said.
"This is the reason why we are waiting for this time to come. So we can get closer to God, pray to him to get his forgiveness. That is the lesson of training during the month of fasting."
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
US Muslims celebrated the start of the holy fasting month on Friday, July 20, making it the first time for Ramadan in 30 years to come in mid July.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net