Observing the festival of breaking the fast: Eidul Fitr in Los Baños

by Maria Bernice L. Leyeza

[NEWSFEATURE] For nearly four decades, the Los Baños Muslim community has celebrated the end of Ramadan or commonly known as Eidul Fitr on August 9, 2013. There are almost 100 Muslims who attended the Eidul Fitr in the mosque located at the Umali Subdivision in Brgy. Batong Malake.

The meaning of Eidul Fitr is ‘festival of breaking the fast’. It is a time for the Muslims to be happy and ask for forgiveness. During the month long celebration, Muslims refrain from drinking any liquids or eating food from sunrise to sunset. Also one should abstain from, sexual intercourse, violence, and bad habits during the holy month.

Eidul Fitr is celebrated on the the ninth month of the Hijra (Islamic) calendar. During this festival, the Muslims wear their best attire and offer a prayer or namaz in mosques. After offering prayers, they would exchange best wishes with each other and sometimes, they would donate a thing or two to a charity or marginalized sector of the community.

As observed, Ramadan is taking place in a lunar month, and it does not always start on the same day every year. Muslims must see the first full moon of the ninth month, and that is the time when the Ramadan would start.

During this month, it was believed that Allah, Muslim’s God, gave the qur’an to the last prophet, which is Muhammad. This year’s Ramadan took place last July 10 as announced by the Muslim leaders. Since they had not sighted the new moon at dusk on July 9, 2013, Mufti Omar Pasigan, head of the Dharul Ifta (House of Opinion), said that the following day would be the start of Ramadan.

In Los Baños, Muslims have been strictly following the rules during Ramadan. Datu Mokalid, a member of University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) Judo Team and a BS Chemical Engineering student, has been fasting since he was seven years old. Since then, his mom had convinced him to fast at that age to be prepared for the upcoming years. A Muslim must not only be physically fit but also mentally.

Mohammad Atali, the current Imam of the Los Baños mosque, said that he encourages children who are under 14 to start fasting to practice in succeeding years. Although he also said that if the child is still hesitating to fast, s/he can prefer not to practice.

Atalid also added that if an aged person who is not capable to fast, s/he must offer a full meal or same value to at least one marginalized Muslim per day. It is also applicable for the severely sick Muslims if fasting might affect their current condition.

While being pregnant for her third child, Nadia Alegria, one of the caretakers of the Mosque in Umali subdivision, had stopped fasting during Ramadan. It is advisable not to fast if a woman cannot be able to maintain her current state if she has menstruation, or needs to breastfeed.

Alegria also mentioned that her eldest son has been practicing Ramadan for two years already. But she is practicing the rest of her children to fast by skipping their lunch or sometimes dinner, in order for them to get used to after some years or so.

Fasting during Ramadan takes a lot of discipline in order to go through the day. However, what about if a Muslim is an athlete? An athlete needs self-discipline in order to achieve the maximum potential of one’s skills. However for a Muslim athlete, greater self-discipline is needed because they need extra effort in their training as they fast.

Mokalid has not taken any food or fluids for the past nine hours every day in the month of Ramadan, but this did not stop him from attending his trainings. Mokalid started training judo, a combat martial art created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano, in 2008. However, he stopped training and came back in 2011. While training judo, he is still practicing Ramadan.

During the sacred month, Mokalid usually eats between 4:30 to 6:00 a.m. or before sunrise. His training hours is 6:30 p.m., and after training, he eats light meal. He said that even if it is hard, he still pursues to train judo because he is passionate to train and learn skills of the sport.

Although, there are no instances of him having blackouts during training, he is making sure that he is still in the right condition. Also, he clarified the misconception with the Muslims in regards with swallowing their saliva is not allowed. Swallowing their own saliva is allowed, because the saliva, itself, is in the body. He said that even if you swallow saliva, after that the person can still be thirsty.

However, since he has a busy schedule and his dorm is in New Dorm (inside the campus of UPLB), he cannot attend to the prayers in the mosque located at the Umali Subdivision. But he continues to pray and recite qur’an in his dormitory five times a day. Some students also do what Mokalid is doing. As long as they still can pray and do the rituals in their home or dormitory.

He is also encouraging some of his non-practicing Muslim orgmates and non-Muslim friends to pray with him during Taraweeh (comes from an Arabic word which means to rest and relax) or a prayer that would take for an hour. During taraweeh, a Muslim will be standing and reading the Qur’an, the Muslim’s bible, and performing a cycle of movements consisting of: standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting. After each cycle, s/he will sit for a while before continuing the prayer, and the resting period while praying is called taraweeh.

Mokalid also mentioned that observing Taraweeh is one of his most favorite prayers. Since he can focus more and give thanks to Allah. It is also the time that his devotion towards Allah becomes stronger.

On the other hand, most of the people who gathered and worship in the mosque are graduate and undergraduate students in the UPLB, also the families nearby the area. It was built during 1979 and finished the entire mosque in 1980.

One of the caretakers of the mosque is Omar Alegria, who owns a sari-sari store across the mosque. His wife, Nadya, took care of the store and the mosque after he died in 2005.

The first Imam in the Mosque at Umali subdivision was Mohammad Sororo. He served for almost a decade. Currently, Atali has been serving in the mosque for eight years. He lived in Maranao before going to Los Baños. He is now living in the junction area and has a shop at Rhoda’s.

The Imam is chosen by the members of the community who they think is intelligent enough to recite correctly the qur’an. The Imam should be a respected member of the community. Sometimes, an Imam is hired or recruited, and may undergo in special training. An Imam however, should be a male. But in some cases, if the group only consists of women, then one of them who is knowledgeable in qur’an can lead the prayer.

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