Just before sunset on a recent Friday evening, about 150 members of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen gathered for prayer before Iftar, the breaking of their daylong Ramadan fast.
Muslims throughout the world began observing Ramadan on the evening of July 8. Ramadan is the Muslim month of fasting as dictated by the Qur’an, the central religious text of Islam, according to IslamiCity.com.
During Ramadan, which lasts through the evening of Aug. 7 this year, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, depriving themselves of food, water and relations with their spouses during daylight hours, said Osman Danquah, a retired military veteran and co-founder of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen.
“When you develop this kind of discipline, then you develop that fear of God,” he said. “This reminds us that we should focus on almighty God and his creations.”
The local Islamic community was first established on Fort Hood in the 1970s and moved to Killeen in the 1980s. The Islamic Community of Greater Killeen was established in 1996, Danquah said.
Manzoor Frooqi, secretary of the community’s board of directors, participated in Iftar on July 19. A Killeen pediatrician, he has observed the sacred month for decades.
“We eat before 5 a.m. and after that we are not to eat anything,” he said. “When the sun sets is the prayer time we call magarip, and we eat and have a special prayer that goes on until midnight. We pray for peace in the community and peace in the whole area. The main focus is God, whom we call Allah. It’s about having the fear of Allah.”
With Allah watching over them, fasting serves as a reminder of people who are less fortunate.
“So we are thankful for the blessing that (Allah) is bringing all the food,” Frooqi said.
Osama Iqbal, 14, of Killeen, was just 7 years old when he began fasting for Ramadan. The excitement and anticipation he felt when he first took part in the tradition were unforgettable.
“When I first started doing it, I was excited because all the big kids were doing it and I wanted to as well,” Iqbal said. “It’s a spiritual thing because we do it just to know how the poor feel since some days they don’t have food. It’s to connect us more to God.”
His first days of fasting was the hardest, he said, as hunger settled in. But over the years, he grew accustomed to the ritual.
“I’ve gotten used to it after years and years of doing it,” Iqbal said.
During Ramadan, he prays five times during the daylight hours, repenting of his sins and reading from the Qur’an in order to reap rewards from Allah.
“I’m just any kid where I go to school,” he said. “But we even fast when we go to school. Then we do our homework. But whenever it’s in the summer, we play video games all day and wake up late.”
Jameel Chaedhry, 17, of Killeen, said Ramadan is much like a party for him.
“We can eat all night, and in the morning when the sun goes up we will stop eating, and continue the process,” he said. “It’s just to give thanks and to forgive and (to recognize) the poor.”
Danquah said the fasting experience helps them become more pious and thoughtful.
“We should become more empathetic to those who have no food, and we learn to conserve and not waste,” he said. “It humbles you ... and enables you to think of those who are less fortunate.”
Iftar is celebrated as a community dinner Friday through Sunday nights at the Islamic Community of Killeen, 5600 State Highway 195.
Herald metro editor Kristi Parker Johnson contributed to this article.