While those who observe the solar calendar are getting ready for the new year, devout Muslims throughout Ventura County are in the midst of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year, a period commemorated by fasting, abstinence and prayer.
For 30 days, Muslims older than 12 will rise before dawn, eat a small meal and fast until night falls. Adults are required to make sacrifices, abstaining from conjugal or material pleasures.
For religious reasons, Muslims follow the Islamic calendar, which follows lunar cycles, rather than the Gregorian, or solar calendar. This year Ramadan began on Dec. 10.
Bader Iqbal, 37, of Westlake Village looks forward to Ramadan as a time to rekindle his spiritualism and distance himself from materialism. He honors this month by closing his family practice medical office by 5 p.m.--an hour early--so he can break the fast with his family.
To Iqbal, who is also the spokesman for the Islamic Center of the Conejo Valley in Newbury Park, Ramadan is not just about abstinence or fasting. "God doesn't need us starving. There's enough starvation going on in the world," Iqbal said. "It's about abstaining from all the negative aspects that we carry."
When he comes home, he, his daughter, son and wife sit down at the table, pray and break the fast by eating a date before dinner. Eating a date to break the fast, he said, is significant because that is how the prophet Muhammad broke the fast centuries ago.
"The first couple [of] days are hard," said Naheed Lakhani, 37, of Westlake Village. "After two or three days, you get used to it. It's a month of charity and sacrifice. The idea is not just about not eating and drinking. The idea is, if you are a good person for the month, it can stick with you for the rest of the year."