Muslims mark end of Ramadan

Posted Sept. 20, 2009, at 10:07 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Members of the Muslim community came together Sunday morning to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting.

More than 100 men, women and children gathered at Spectacular Events on Griffin Road because their mosque in Orono is not large enough to accommodate such a large crowd.

“Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar,” the congregation prayed in Arabic. “Laa ilaaha illa Allah. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. Walillaahil hamd.”

“Allah is the most great, Allah is the most great,” is how the prayer translates into English, according to Ahmed Abdelmajeed of Bangor, who led the service. “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah, Allah is the most great, Allah is the most great. Praise be to Allah.”

The men and boys knelt at the front of the room facing Mecca. The women, girls and young children knelt in a separate group behind the men. Their voices blended together to form what sounded like a chant to ears unfamiliar with the prayer said only at the end Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for the followers of Islam.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the year for the followers of Mohammed, who observe a lunar calendar. The holiday takes place 13 days earlier each year according to the solar calendar. Ramadan began at sunrise Aug. 22 and ended with the sighting of the new moon Saturday night.

During Ramadan, all healthy adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset. The month is to be devoted to reflection and spiritual discipline, as well as the reading of the Quran, which was revealed to the prophet Mohammed by Allah during the final days of Ramadan.

Followers also are expected to perform good deeds and pray more often than the usual five times a day, including each evening in a mosque with other Muslims, if possible. They also are to donate, if financially able to do so, $10 for each person in their households to the poor. The $10 represents what it would cost to buy a healthful meal following Muslim dietary laws.

“As we gather here today,” Abdelmajeed, who teaches at Husson University’s School of Pharmacy, said in his khutba, or sermon, “there are two feelings that are clearly uppermost in our hearts and minds — the feeling of joy and satisfaction on the completion of our religious duty, and the feeling of brotherhood, sisterhood and solidarity among ourselves.

“We are the people of faith,” he continued. “We are the servants of Allah. What pleases us is that which pleases our Lord. We are brothers and sisters in faith. We feel happy when we come together in the name of our faith, representing diverse colors, races and ethnic backgrounds. We come together in the spirit of Islamic brotherhood, in the name of Allah, and following our faith, Islam. Let us keep this spirit of Eid among us always.”

Ginger Snapp-Cunningham of Franklin is a United Church of Christ minister who is on sabbatical working for Pacific Intercultural, an exchange program for high school students. She brought Muslim exchange students who are attending Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor and Sumner High School in East Sullivan to the service so they could celebrate the conclusion of Ramadan.

“I really like the sense of community,” she said of the congregation. “Having the men and women sit in separate areas is different from most Christian churches but the intent is similar — to bring people together to be centered on God.”

After the service the group broke their long fast with coffee, juice, bagels, muffins and doughnuts. They planned to gather again Sunday evening at the same location to continue their celebration of Eid al-Fitr.

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