The Five Pillars of Islam are the framework of Islamic life. First off, a Muslim must have faith in Allah and believe that there is only one Allah and Muhammad is His messenger. Next, a Muslim has the duty to pray five times each day, which is considered to be a direct link between him and Allah. Third, a Muslim must distribute alms and help the needy.

Fourth, a Muslim is responsible to keep the Fast of Ramadan. Lastly, a Muslim is obligated to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime. Most non- Islamic people do not know why these pillars are so important to the Islamic religion. One of the most questioned, is the fourth pillar, since fasting symbolizes such different things in all religions.

In Judaism and Christianity fasting is related to mourning, grief, sadness, and disastrous times. In Islam, on the other hand, fasting brings happiness and is welcomed eagerly every year with much excitement. Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is when all Muslims must fast. To fast a Muslim should be sane, have reached puberty, healthy, and not instate of travel.

Women should not fast when they are not instate of purity and clean from menstruation/ post child bleeding. During this month all Islamic rules are strictly enforced. The month of Ramadan allows all Muslims to gain self discipline, concentrate on things that are most important in life, worship Allah and become closer to Him, have a great change in their diet, and most importantly, gain mindfulness. On the contrary of other religions, Muslims become saddened when their Jafari 2 time of fasting departs. Self- discipline is practiced in various ways in all cultures.

For example, some people practice the art of yoga, while others believe karate can help them. In Islam, Ramadan is one of the major keys to self discipline. The month allows a Muslim to become extremely organized in his everyday routines. Ramadan gives a defined schedule for everyday. A time to eat and to pray is set and must be followed strictly throughout the whole month.

"One may eat and drink at any time during the night until he can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight" (Quran). During Ramadan a Muslim is not permitted to smoke, drink alcohol, or have any sexual relations. This also allows self discipline to be enforced during the month. "Self discipline is the key to success, which is why it is required throughout Ramadan" (Razi). During the Fast of Ramadan a Muslim is supposed to stay focused on things that are most important in life and .".. spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives" (Zahid).

It is very significant that a Muslim spends a lot time with his family and friends, throughout this month, and realizes what is truly important in his life. Many more Muslims attend Mosques during Ramadan because they believe that Allah will help them understand the essentials of life. Throughout Ramadan all Muslims are strictly obligated to pray five times each day and, in addition, attend Mosque and have a nightly prayer, called Tara ween, which is two to three times as long as the usual daily prayers. Along with praying, Muslims celebrate significant days in the month. "On the evening of the 27 th day of the month, Muslims celebrate the Layla t-al-Q adr (the Night of Power) " (Zahid). This night is Jafari 3 celebrated because it is believed by all Muslims that it was the night that Muhammad first received the revelation of the Quran and the night when Allah determines the future of the world for the next year.

By celebrating nights like this along with praying at home and in a Mosque, a Muslim becomes much closer to Allah and in return gets to know their own identity much better. Reading out of the Quran and worshipping Allah is one of the most important things to do during the Fast of Ramadan. Along with gaining self discipline, concentrating on the important aspects of life, and worshipping and becoming closer to Allah, Ramadan also brings a very large change in a Muslims diet. During this month Muslims can no longer eat and drink whenever they desire. A strict restraint is put on their daily diet.

They must wake up at dawn and have their final meal before their day of fasting. This meal is known as the Sahara, which means dawn. They are not allowed to eat or drink absolutely anything during the daylight hours, which is usually about twelve hours. At dusk they are allowed to end their fasting with a meal known as the If tar. In the evening it is common for Muslims to go out and visit their friends and family. At dawn the next day, the same process begins again.

The different diet helps the Muslims learn not to be dependent on food, or anything or anyone else. The diet also allows the Muslims to go through what the less fortunate go through when they have nothing to eat or drink. The good that comes through the Fast of Ramadan can be easily destroyed by five things "The telling of a lie, slander, denouncing someone behind his back, a false oath and greed / covetousness " (Zahid). These five things are always considered insolent, but are most displeasing during the month of Ramadan. Along with this, a Muslim is not Jafari 4 allowed to drink alcohol, smoke, or have sexual relations throughout the month. All of these rules and regulations bring one very important thing to a Muslim and that is mindfulness.

Since they have to carefully watch what they do and make sure they do not break any of the rules that would ruin their fast, the Muslim becomes very mindful with all of his decisions. This allows him not to do anything unnecessary that would be a waste of time. Along with self discipline, mindfulness is one of the most significant characteristics needed to succeed in life and the Fast of Ramadan helps achieve it. The month of Ramadan is extremely important in the Islamic religion. It is a time period that helps Muslim people gain self discipline, concentrate on things that are most important in life, worship Allah and become closer to Him, have a great change in their diet, and most importantly, gain mindfulness. In the end of the Fast of Ramadan there are two obligations which help the faster bid the month farewell.

First off, a Muslim must give three portions of the food that he ate throughout the month to a person or family in need of it and second he must end with the final 'Eid (Festival of Fast Breaking) prayer. After fulfilling these two obligations, the faster grows even closer to Allah and his Iman (faith) elevates greatly. After this, the fast ends with a three day celebration called 'Eid-Al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking), where gifts are exchanged and friends and families get together to pray and enjoy each others company. Ramadan is the most meaningful holiday in the Islamic religion and has made the lives of many Muslims all around the world much more pleasing. Jafari 5 Bibliography The Fast of Ramadan. 18 Oct.

2002. Islamic City. 18 Oct. 2002.

The Month of Ramadan and Fasting. 20 Oct. 2002. Zahid, Is haq.

Ramadan: Rules & Regulations. 18 Oct. 2002. Ramadan and Fasting. 18 Oct. 2002.

Razi, Zahid. Personal interview. 19 Oct. 2002.