KARACHI - Reverting to Islam six months ago, Mangat Ram, now Ali Abdullah, is fasting for the first time in his life.
I am very excited to observe fasting, which will be a new experience altogether for me, Abdullah told OnIslam.net.
The 34-year-old, who hails from Thar desert of southern Sindh province, embraced Islam In January, although he had been reading the Noble Qur'an and Islamic literature for the past year.
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I spent last Ramadan with Muslims (he was a Hindu at that time) in a shelter camp after heavy rains and flashfloods washed away our houses and livestock last year, Abdullah, who is attending a Welcome Ramadan classes organized by Dars-e-Quran network, a literary organization that works for Qur'an education in Pakistan, recalled.
However, by that time, I unfortunately could not find out the real path, and missed out the blessings of Ramadan, added the father of three.
But this time, I am ready with full conviction to observe fasting.
Abdullah's wife and his three children have also reverted to Islam a few months ago after he left the shelter camp for his hometown.
Abdullah and his family had taken shelter in a shelter camp set up by Al-Khidmat Foundation in the outskirts of Karachi, the commercial hub of Pakistan, after heavy rains and flashfloods hit the lower parts of Sindh province during last monsoons.
I was marveled by zeal and energy of my Muslim brothers, who used to fast but continue to serve us throughout the day, Abdullah said.
It was almost unbelievable for me, he said, referring to relief and rescue operation by Islamic charities in the rain- and flood-hit areas, which saved thousands of lives last year.
I was really inspired by the way we had been treated in the shelter camps as we belonged to lower (Hindu) caste, and even upper-class Hindus hardly bothered about us, said Abdullah, who took three more months after he left the camp to say his Shahadah along with his family at a local mosque.
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.
Abdul Rehman, formerly known as Bhagwan Das, is also excited about his Ramadan fasting experience.
This will Inshaullah be my second Ramadan, Abdul Rehman, who also hails from Thar area, told OnIslam.net.
But I am more excited this time because I did not know much about the importance and benefits of fasting.
Abdul Rehman, a peasant, had reverted to Islam during Ramadan last year at a shelter camp of Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation in Badin district.
He had observed fasting for a few times as he embraced Islam in the last week of the holy fasting month.
I had little knowledge about Islam and Ramadan at that time, said the father of five.
I did fast, but frankly speaking, there was lack of conviction and understanding.
But, I have read much about Islam during last one year, and now I exactly know the significance of Ramadan for a Muslim.
Thousands of Hindus and Christians took shelter in camps set up by Al-Khidmat Foundation, Jammat-ud-Dawa'h's Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, Maymar Trust, Alamgir Welfare Trust, and Edhi Foundation in five worst-hit districts of Sindh, the second largest province in Pakistan.
Hundreds of Hindus have embraced Islam in different parts of Sindh during the past year, especially among lower-caste Hindus, who mainly reside in southern deserted parts of the province.
Islamic charities have also been carrying out various relief and development projects in Thar Desert, where almost 50 percent of the population is Hindus.
Zam-Zam water project carried out by Al-Khidmat Foundation, under which 400 wells have been dug in different parts of Thar, has made a major difference in the lives of Hindus, who otherwise had to travel miles to fetch potable water.
Similarly, scores of Christians have reverted to Islam in different parts of Punjab, the country's most populous and richest province, during last year.
Christians and Hindus make up 3 and 2 percent of the total 180 million population of the south Asian Muslim country.
For Abdullah, who is going to observe his first Ramadan, the holy fasting month has special significance in his life.
It was the holy month of Ramadan that changed my life by bringing me closer to Islam, he told OnIslam.net.
It was Ramadan that propelled me to think about Islam for the first time in my life.
I kept thinking about the spirit that enables Muslims to remain without food, water, and other luxuries of life during fasting, even during times when no one is there to see (monitor) them?
Though I could not figure out this all right away, however it's never too late. I am thankful to Allah who has led me to the right path, a humble Abdullah says.
Mohammad Ibrahim (George Masih), a former Christian, who embraced Islam few months ago, gives credit to Ramadan for leading him to revert.
I had been thinking of spirit behind fasting for a long time, however, I could not understand the logic behind that, though partial fasting was not new to me being a Christian, Ibrahim told OnIslam.net.
To understand that, I read more literature about Ramadan, both in Urdu and English, Ibrahim, a teacher by profession, said.
As much as I kept reading about Ramadan, I started understanding the rationality of Islam.
That is why, Ibrahim said, the holy month of Ramadan has special significance to me.
I am all set to observe fasting for the first time, said Ibrahim, who is little worried about extremely hot weather and long days.I am little worried about that, but I am sure that by the grace of Allah, I will cope with that.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net