Muslims begin the celebration of Ramadan today, which includes fasting, praying five times a day and nightly dinners, called Iftars, with family and friends.
Ramadan marks the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Observant Muslims recognize the importance by fasting from food, intercourse and fighting from dawn to sunset.
Fasting from food is the easiest part of the month, said Anwar Khalifa, vice president of the board at the East Texas Islamic Society.
“The human body is amazingly adaptable,” he said. “After about the third or fourth day of fasting, the body adjusts and the headaches go away, thinking about food all the time goes away.”
Khalifa said the hardest part is living life as God wants.
“You have to treat everybody you come across the way God wants you to treat them,” he said. “You have to be good to everybody you meet.”
Muslims believe Ramadan marks the time that God revealed the Quran, their holy book, to Mohammed, Islam’s prophet.
Khalifa said although Mohammed is Islam’s messenger from God, all of God’s messengers are equal.
“We can’t say that Muhammad is better than Jesus or Moses, or Abraham,” he said. “They all carry the same message and it was the message that came from God Almighty, which is worship me, God Almighty. How people worship God Almighty is how they treat their fellow men.”
Charity and taking care of fellow men is also encouraged during the holy month. Khalifa said fundraisers for the East Texas Islamic Society School and Islamic Relief, an international organization that helps communities suffering from poverty and crisis, are often held during Ramadan.
Muslims will pray five times a day throughout the month at the East Texas Islamic Society Mosque.
Khalifa said the Muslim community in Tyler is not small. On Friday afternoons, he said over 400 worshipers visit the mosque for prayers.
For this year’s Ramadan, a guest Imam, which is an Islamic worship leader for a mosque, is visiting from Egypt to lead nightly prayers.
“We’re really excited to have him here for Ramadan because we don’t have a full time Imam,” Khalifa said. “We’ll try to finish the Quran in those nightly prayers, and he’ll help people learn how to read in Arabic.”