This week marked the start of Ramadan, the annual season for spiritual renewal for Muslims all over the world. This month-long period of reflection and celebration could not come at better time, as people of all faiths need desperately to set aside arrogance and embrace humility and remember that we are all God's children.
As so many people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes, it is crucial they do not lose their faith and their hope. Ramadan teaches us to appreciate God's bounties and not take things for granted. It is a reminder that God will always provide for us, and that as long as your heart is beating, there is hope.
Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) taught us that important lesson when he said that even when we see the world is coming to an end, if you have a tree, you should plant it.
Muslims believe that Ramadan is a time when the doors of heaven are open wide and the gates of hell are closed and the devil is chained so that he is helpless and cannot interfere with those who are faithful. It is the time when mercy is shown, forgiveness is granted and souls are redeemed.
Ramadan is a time when Muslims practice emotional and physical self-control as we seek the pleasure of our creator. It is a time when, from sunrise to sunset, we abstain from eating and drinking, marital relations and all forms of behavior that might interfere with our focus on purifying our minds and bodies.
There is also a lesson to be learned as we embrace this ritual. Regardless of our wealth or education, we are all the same when we fast. It is a reminder that all men are created equal, and it helps us to appreciate what our less fortunate neighbors endure all year.
For those who are hungry —and there are far too many in America — they are welcome to drop in at any mosque anywhere in the world during Ramadan for acts of charity, extra prayers, reaching out to family and the needy, and reading the Holy Quran.
For the health conscious, fasting has many benefits. It is an effective therapy to combat stress, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis and cancer. In addition, fasting is a powerful anti-depressant and mood elevator because it produces a surge of endorphins.
Ramadan is nicknamed the fleeting month because it passes so quickly. It peaks with the night of power, which is when your sins are purged and you become as pure as the day you were born. Ramadan comes to an end with the fast-breaking feast, Eid al-Fitr. This year the feast falls on Sept. 11, which is an appropriate time for Muslims to solemnly remember that we must redouble efforts to show our fellow Americans that the true Islam opposes extremism and always promotes moderation and tolerance.
That approach is needed not just during times of spiritual renewal, but year-round.
Dr. Adel Eldin is an interventional cardiologist with offices in Hernando and Pasco counties.