Monday, September 21, 2009

Eid-ul-fitr Festival in Clarksville Marks End of Ramadan Month of Fasting
The Leaf-Chronicle
September 21, 2009
Sunday morning showers eased up as a group of about 60 Muslims trickled in beneath a pavilion in Rotary Park to celebrate the end of a month of fasting called Ramadan.
Muslim men, women and children hailing from Indonesia, Puerto Rico, Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Iraq and right here in Montgomery County greeted each other in Arabic and admired one another's beautifully decorated outfits before gathering to celebrate Eid-ul-fitr, an Islamic religious holiday.

For the local Islamic community, which is made up of about 50 families and growing, Eid-ul-fitr symbolizes the end of a period of self-sacrifice, deep meditation and thankfulness for what they have.

"'Eid' means 'festivities,' and 'fitr' means 'the break of fast,'" said Amena Mabrouk, a woman raised in the Islamic religion. "The holiday symbolizes the breaking of the fasting period. Eid is celebrated after fasting for the month of Ramadan as a matter to be thankful and show gratitude to God, Allah."

Worshippers took off their shoes and lined up in rows on blankets and carpets across the concrete pavilion floor.

Danny Salagado stood in front and led the group in Arabic chants and prayers. The congregation softly repeated the words and at times kneeled, sat or stood.

Salagado then gave the Identity of Muslims ceremony, a speech in Arabic and English that reminded the worshippers of the teachings of Allah and the way Muslims should live their lives.
A recent convert
It was her first Eid-ul-fitr celebration for Courtney Stewart, an Austin Peay State University student who marked the occasion by publicly converting to Islam.

Stewart, 19, began serious learning about Islam only two months ago while on campus.
"I was ordering a pepperoni pizza for a Muslim friend and they explained they didn't eat pork, and that led to explaining more Islamic beliefs. I started reading the Quran and started learning, and it all came from asking about pepperonis," Stewart said.
Stewart, who said she was raised in a strong Christian family, said her decision has put a strain on family relations.
"When I told them I was learning, most of them had written me off as not being family anymore," Stewart said. "This is a strong enough thing, and if they are not going to support me in my happiness, I will support my Muslim brothers and sisters."

On Sunday, she publicly gave her statement of faith, where she said there is no god but one god and Muhammad is his messenger.

Breaking the fast
Stewart said although she was not yet a Muslim, she participated in Ramadan and fasted. She said the experience strengthened her faith.

"It's a hard struggle, and you have to be very dedicated," Stewart said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it. ... You feel thankful, and you don't take food for granted. We fast because there are others around who don't get to eat all day, and you do not take food for granted."

Mabrouk said Ramadan is essential to cleansing and drawing closer to Allah.

"The purpose of the fast, or Ramadan, is to cleanse the human soul by remembering god, Allah, by doing worship," Mabrouk said. "When you're hungry and have nothing, you remember God more. That's the only thing to turn back to ... to feel what the poor feel and to appreciate what we have because you don't realize what you have until it's taken away."

Mabrouk said this year was one of the longest fasting periods, lasting from sunrise to sunset, which began at about 7:30 p.m. Mabrouk said nothing was consumed, including water or food.
"It elevates the level of our faith in that month," Mabrouk said.
Feasting on fine foods, gift giving and fellowship are all part of the Eid-ul-fitr celebration.

The week after the celebration has a special meaning for Muslims — they can fast for another week to have their sins forgiven for the previous year.

"It keeps me grounded," Mabrouk said about the fast and celebration. "You don't own yourself to decide the way you want. You belong to Allah. ... It is the mentality of a Muslim woman and man that keeps us grounded."

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