The Coastal Star

Religion Notes: A primer on Ramadan celebrations

By Janis Fontaine

On May 15 in many places throughout the world, crowds will gather as the day winds into evening.
They are awaiting the start of a holy event, the first sighting of the crescent moon that marks the start of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The monthlong lunar cycle is celebrated by 2 billion Muslims as Ramadan.
In Islam, Ramadan is the holiest time of the year. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, based on the phases of the moon. Ramadan takes place at a different time each year, and over time, it passes through all the seasons.
Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, introspection and prayer for Muslims. It commemorates the phase of the moon when, around A.D. 610, Muslims believe Muhammad received revelations from God (Allah) through his angel Gabriel. This holy event took place in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, which is why, wherever they are in the world, Muslims face Mecca for their daily prayers.
The teachings were collected into the Quran, a 114-chapter holy book, like the Christian Bible or the Judaic Torah. Muslims believe the Quran contains the exact words of God.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset each day, but break the fast with family and friends once the sun goes down. A check of the calendar shows this doesn’t officially happen until after 8 p.m., so Muslims fast until then. Ramadan culminates in Eid al-Fitr, a three-day festival and one of Islam’s most important holidays. This year, Ramadan ends the evening of June 14.
All Muslims who are old enough and healthy enough fast during Ramadan. Fasting is a way for Muslims to cleanse the body, but it’s also a way to empathize with people who are poor and hungry. In addition to fasting, Muslims avoid drinking, smoking, sex, impure thoughts and words, and immoral and even unkind behavior. Self-restraint is important. Self-reflection is vital.
Some people read from the Quran or recite special prayers or go to the mosque. Omam Khalid wrote in his article The Dos and Don’ts of Ramadan, “This month is about patience, forgiveness and goodness and anything that hinders a Muslim achieving this state should be avoided at all costs.”
Ramadan also is a time of celebration. During Ramadan, “the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained.” This makes Ramadan the perfect time to do good, and to ask and give forgiveness, with no devil to tempt you.
The Pew Research Center estimates that there were about 3.45 million Muslims living in the U.S. in 2017, which means Muslims make up just over 1 percent of the total U.S. population.
The Islamic Center of Boca Raton hosts a monthly open house the first Thursday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. The community is invited to the center to learn more about Islam. Refreshments are served following a tour of the mosque and a question-and-answer session. The Islamic Center is at 3480 NW Fifth Ave., Boca Raton. Call 395-7221.

Islam and Ramadan
Islam — Islam means “to surrender to God.” Muslims believe there is one omnipotent God and people can achieve salvation by following his commandments.
The Quran — The holy book that contains Muhammad’s revelations, believed by Muslims to be the exact word of God.
Muhammad — The final prophet in a line of prophets that includes Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Muhammad lived from around A.D. 570 to 632.
The Five Pillars of Islam — The pillars include a declaration of faith called shahada; prayer; charity, called zakat; fasting; and pilgrimage, or hajj, which requires Muslims to make a trip to the holy city of Mecca.
Ramadan — The holy time that recognizes the gift of the Quran.
Iftar — The evening meal at which the fast is broken. The humble date is a traditional food eaten to break the fast.
Taraweeh — This special evening prayer is prayed only during Ramadan. It’s no longer required but it’s a strong tradition and many modern Muslims pray it. It’s a long prayer, lasting more than an hour.
America’s first and oldest mosque — Lebanese immigrants built the first mosque in North Dakota in the 1920s. The mosque was torn down in the 1970s and later replaced. What is probably the oldest surviving mosque was built in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the 1930s.

Prayers for addiction
A worship service and information session about the opioid crisis will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. May 6 in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church of Delray Beach, 33 Gleason St. Prayer for those affected by addiction will follow, and several experts will speak from different perspectives. A Q&A session will conclude the afternoon. Free. Guests welcomed. Call 276-6338 or visit

Marian Rosary Festival
The rosary will be prayed in many languages at the 2018 Marian Rosary Festival honoring Mary, Mother of the Church, on May 6 at Emmanuel Catholic Church, 15700 S. Military Trail, Delray Beach.
The Most Rev. Gerald Barbarito will preside over the ceremony, which begins at 2 p.m., and will offer the benediction. For more information, call 496-2480.

Interfaith Café meets
Join the theological discussion from 7 to 9 p.m. May 17 at South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road, Delray Beach.
This month’s program is “The Gift of Years,” an evening of reflection and conversation on how a rich and mature spirituality addresses regret, relationships and hope. The presenter is the Rev. Dr. Steven Olds, S.Th.D., a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Orlando and a professor and spiritual director at the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.
Light refreshments will be served. The meeting is free, but donations are appreciated. The Interfaith Café meets the third Thursday of the month. Volunteers are needed to assist with a variety of duties to keep this program going. For information or to volunteer, email
Music at St. Paul’s
A special concert of Bach arias featuring soprano Adriana Ruiz is planned for May’s Music at St. Paul’s at 3 p.m. May 20 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 188 S. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach.
Under the direction of Paul Cienniwa, countertenor Edgar Sanfeliz Botta will also perform, and several musicians will perform on period instruments, including Robert Billington and Scott Ireland on traverso, Laurice Campbell Buckton on baroque violin, and Marie Ridolfo on viola da gamba. Cienniwa will play harpsichord/organ.
Soprano and alto arias are from Bach Cantatas 35, 36, 45, 132, 147, 210, 214 and 243. Soprano and alto duets come from Cantatas 78 and 93. Organ works are based on the chorale Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten, and Trio Sonata in G major, BWV 1038.
Tickets are $20. Admission is free for 18 and younger. Arrive by 2:30 p.m. for a pre-concert lecture by Cienniwa. For more information, call 278-6003 or visit

Janis Fontaine writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Contact her at

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