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Faithful Gather for Iftar

Area Muslims participate in a community Iftar at the Reston Community Center.

Hidayah Jaka, 7, was playing with fellow girl scouts and boy scouts last Sunday, waiting for everyone to arrive.

About 50 families came to the Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods for the 3rd Annual Scouts Ramadan Iftar Dinner sponsored by the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.

Hidayah has been practicing fasting the last two weeks during Ramadan, which started Oct. 3 for millions of Muslims around the world.

To learn discipline, self-restraint and generosity, Muslims fast each day (no eating or drinking) from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, which is the holiest month of the year for Muslims. It is celebrated because it is the month Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Hazrat Muhammad.

For Hidayah, an ADAMS Girl Scout, the month is a reminder to help others. "I learned that we should give more to the poor and needy," she said. Her friend, Mona Magid, 6, who is also practicing fasting, said that she’s noticed it’s easier on the weekends than during the week when she goes to school, "because you don’t see your friends eating," said Mona.

IFTAR, THE BREAKING of the fast, is usually done as a family or a community, said Rizwan Jaka, Hidayah’s father. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the "five pillars" of Islam, which also includes the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity and a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Jaka, the president of ADAMS, began the event with a call to prayer, or adhan, at 6:33 p.m., when the Muslim participants broke their fast. Traditionally, he said, most Muslims break fast by saying a short prayer to themselves to thank Allah. Then they traditionally drink some water and eat a date. That day, adults at the event had been fasting since 6:04 a.m., said Jaka. Muslims began their fast with a suhoor, a meal before sunrise.

Many of the younger children at the Iftar hadn’t fasted, but had practiced fasting. According to Jaka, they take part more and more until they reach puberty. Also, he said that some elderly, women who are pregnant or nursing, diabetics and children and women who are menstruating are excused from fasting.

During sawn — the fasting period — Muslims do not eat or drink; they are also prohibited from smoking, drinking and sexual intercourse.

"It’s a spiritual and physical cleansing," said Jaka of Ramadan. "When we are hungry, we are humbling ourselves and that helps us realize how others feel who are less fortunate."

Imam Mohamed Magid, who leads the ADAMS congregation, said that Ramadan helps bring about social awareness among the Muslim community. "Ramadan helps bring about a social conscience among Muslims and the need to help others," said Magid.

Jaka also said Ramadan is a time to practice patience. "You shouldn’t get angry with someone else," said Jaka. The idea, said Jaka, is to take all the lessons learned throughout the month and then build on them during the rest of the year.

ANOTHER COMPONENT of Ramadan is the Taraweeh, a prayer each night at about 8 p.m. after the daily nighttime prayer. During this extra prayer, which lasts about an hour and a half, the Quran is recited. Each night, Muslims recite a juz, or one part of the Quran. By the end of Ramadan, the entire Quran will be recited.

The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast, which will be held Nov. 3 or Nov. 4.