The unit ministry team for the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division held a Ramadan fast-breaking service for more than 60 soldiers and family members Aug. 6 at the Ohana Place.

Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic year, is a month-long fast where Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink, to include water, from 90 minutes before sunrise until sunset.

During the fast-breaking service, known as an Iftar in the Islamic faith, Maj. Khallid Shabazz, brigade chaplain, broke the fasting with a large celebration.

“Last night we had a big feast and gift exchange in celebration of the last day of fasting,” said Shabazz, an Islamic leader known as an Imam, and one of only four Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military. “It was akin to Christmas for those of the Christian faith.”

For Muslims, enduring the physical rigors of fasting is an opportunity to evaluate their spiritual lives in the light of Islamic teaching, Shabazz said.

“Fasting increases our awareness of God and self-restraint,” Shabazz said. “Abstaining from something so natural such as food and water allows ourselves to gain a greater respect for those who suffer on a daily basis.”

Sgt. Jessica Covello, brigade chaplain assistant, said she attempted to fast for Ramadan to fully understand the challenges Muslim soldiers face.

“I tried to fast and only made it to 10:30 a.m. the first day,” Covello said. “At that point I had to chug a bottle of water. Fasting is much more difficult than you think, especially as a soldier out in the heat.”

Covello said the experience opened her eyes and gave her a new appreciation for those who meet the challenges of going without subsistence for up to 16 hours.

“I’m very impressed by these soldiers,” Covello said. “They truly are disciplined and I have nothing but respect for them.”

Muslims not only abstain from ingesting food and liquid throughout the day, but they also refrain from a variety of other actions as well, Shabazz said.

“Fasting in Islam does not just consist of refraining from eating and drinking, but from every kind of selfish desire and wrong-doing.”

Ramadan has three significant objectives: to promote nearness to God, increase self-control and encourage charity for those in need, Shabazz said.

“We learn to give, and not to take. The deprivation of fasting makes us sympathize with the suffering of others, gives us a desire to alleviate it, and makes us remember the blessings of life which we normally take for granted.”

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