for fasting. The purposes for fasting were self-discipline and commiseration
with the hungry of the earth. The idea of a fast was not newJews and
Christians had fasted before then. Unlike the sunset-to-sunset fasts of the
Jews, Mohammeds fast was to last for an entire month, but only during
daylight hours Eat and drink until so much of the dawn appears that a
white thread may be distinguished from a black, then keep the fast com-
pletely until night. Each day of Ramadan is regarded as a fresh trial, which,
if carried successfully to sunset, is ended with food and joy.
For many Moslems, the fast of Ramadan is the most scrupulously
observed of all religious duties. Everyone must fast except children, the sick
and aged, pregnant women, and those undergoing the heavy burden of desert
travel. The days are supposed to be spent in prayer and meditation. Trade
and public affairs slow markedly during the day, but the sunset cannon
signals the awakening.
During the month of fasting, the meal schedule has to be adjusted
providing a pre-dawn light meal and a post-sunset breakfast meal. Muslims
prefer to begin the breakfast meal with dates. At the end of the month, a
small charity may be given away to the poor (as alms) on behalf of each
Muslim soul. (In addition, an adult Muslim needs the means to make a
pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his life.)
Celebrations of many kinds take place throughout the Moslem world.
Public holidays include Mohammeds birthday, which is widely celebrated.
The Shiites (pronounced SHE-ites), a major sect of Islam, have some addi-
tional festivals and ceremonies. A very important day observes mourning for
the death of Husain, a grandson of Mohammed, in A.D. 661. They also
celebrate the birthday of Fatima, Mohammeds daughter.
Private ceremonies in a Moslems life include celebrations at birth,
circumcision, and weddings. But the event that Moslems take the most pride
in is a childs memorization of the entire Koran. After a child has done this,
his family holds a party to honor both the student and his teacher, and both
LIFE CYCLE RITES
Marriage in Islam is not a sacrament. It is a pledge or contract by which
the partners regulate their mutual relations. Marriage is usually prearranged
by an intermediary who establishes a proper contract and makes arrange-
ments for a proper dowry from the prospective husband. The couple does
not meet in private until after marriage. Men may marry Jewish or Christian
women; women, however, are not allowed to marry outside Islamic faith.
Divorce is possible for the male by repudiationsuch repudiation must
be made three times. A wife may divorce her husband by court decision only.
OTHER PRACTICES OR RESTRICTIONS
Dietary Laws or Restrictions
Pork and its derivatives, intoxicating beverages or liquors, and harmful
drugs, (such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or any drug that is taken without