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August 5, 2011

Reflections on Ramadan

by Victoria Strang

This week begins the month long Islamic celebration of Ramadan. Believed to commemorate the time in which the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, Ramadan is held during the ninth month of the lunar calendar and can last for 29 to 30 days.

Practiced by most of the 1.4 billion Muslims throughout the world this month is designated as a time of reflection through daily fasting and prayer.

Ramadan has come to symbolize a time of restraint and self-reflection in which individuals—eating only before sunrise and after sunset—can focus on their beliefs and practices. Ramadan is also a time to gather with family and friends who often break their fast by gathering together. 

The words and acts ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad show his compassion for all living creatures. As Imam Muhammad Hagmagid Ali, executive director and vice president of the Islamic Society of North America has noted:

The Quran bids us to treat animals with respect and not to abuse them. It teaches us that animals are communities in their own right, that animals speak and praise God in their own way, and that God provides for their sustenance just as he does for our own. These principles are reinforced by the words ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), to the effect that "Whoever is kind to the Creatures of God is kind to himself." Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prohibited the mistreatment of animals and praised those who showed compassion towards them.

This holy month of Ramadan is another opportunity to reflect on our connection to animals as well as our role as stewards of creation. As noted Islamic scholar Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri has written in his book Islamic Concern for Animals: “Life on this earth is so inextricably intertwined as a homogeneous unit that it cannot be disentangled for the melioration of one species at the expense of the other”.

And as the Prophet Muhammad said: “Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself."

Victoria Strang is coordinator for The HSUS Faith Outreach program, and a scholar of religious studies with a specialty in Middle Eastern and Islamic issues.

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