Alhamdulillah was-salatu was-salaamu 'ala rasoolillah. All thanks and praise is to ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, and we ask that HIS blessings and peace be upon HIS Messenger, Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam.
WELCOME TO THE BLESSED MONTH OF RAMADAN
Ramadan is just around the corner and we thought it appropriate to congratulate everyone on the advent of the blessed month and to review the purpose and meaning of fasting.
Ramadan is the 10th month of the Islamic calendar, known as the Hijra calendar. The calendar derives its name from the Hijra (migration) of Prophet Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, (may peace and blessings be upon him) from Makkah to Al-Madina. The Muslim calendar consists of 12 months and each month commences with the sighting of the new moon. This means the Hijra year is shorter than the Gregorian year, so Ramadan and the other months span all the seasons over a 33-year cycle. [The actual fixing of the years according to the Hijra calendar was not set until the Caliphate of Umar bin Al-Khattab, radiya ALLAHu anhu, (may ALLAH be pleased with him).]
During Ramadan, all able Muslims, male and female, are required to fast from Fajr, dawn, to Maghrib, sunset. Fasting consists of refraining from eating, drinking and marital relations during the fasting hours. After Maghrib and until Fajr, Muslims may partake of these activities. The fasting continues for the entire month.
Fasting was prescribed for a specific reason, which has been clearly stated in Surat Al-Baqara as follows:
"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may attain Taqwa (GOD-Consciousness, self-restraint, piety)." (Al-Baqara: 183)
This verse clearly states that the purpose of fasting is to increase oneís Taqwa. Taqwa is a difficult word to translate and a has been translated as self-restraint, GOD-consciousness and perhaps other things. Taqwa is a state whereby the being is aware of his existence, aware of his purpose in life and is focused on fulfilling that purpose as best he can. The purpose of humanity is stated in Surat At-Thariyat as follows:
"And I (ALLAH) created the Jinn and mankind, that they should worship ME (Alone). I do not seek sustenance from them (i.e., provision for themselves or for MY creatures) nor do I require that they should feed Me (i.e., feed themselves or MY creatures). For ALLAH is the All-Provider (source of all sustenance), Owner of Power, the Most Strong." (At-Thariyat: 56-58)
ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, (Glory be to HIM) has created humanity for the sole purpose of worshipping HIM. This means we should not become misguided, forgetting the purpose of life and becoming immersed in worldly and material endeavors. Those have their place, but they must not become the purpose of our existence. Fasting is a means of helping us refocus on our purpose. It removes the indulgence in food and other pleasures for a period of time, freeing us up to refocus on our purpose in life. Along with fasting, we are also recommended to increase our recitation of the Noble Quran, increase our voluntary salat (prayer), increase our Thikr (remembrance of ALLAH), increase our supplications and make an extra effort to avoid speaking ill of others or to others.
Ramadan is an opportunity to examine our lives and implement the laws and ideals prescribed to make our lives better and to help secure a peaceful place in the eternal life to come.
As with all Islamic practices, there is a balance between dedicated acts of worship and other activities that donít appear to be related to worship. (For a Muslim, all activities are acts of worship, if they are moral and good and they are performed with the intention to please ALLAH.). ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, gives us this balance in Surat Al-Baqara, stating:
"It is permitted for you to enjoy your wives during the night of the fasts. They are Libas (garments, screens, body covers) for you and you are Libas for them. ALLAH knows that you used to deceive yourselves but HE accepted your repentance and forgave you; so now associate with them, and seek what ALLAH has ordained for you (offspring), and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread (darkness of night); then complete your fast till the night appears; but do not associate with your wives while you are in retreat in the mosques. Those are limits (set by) ALLAH so do not approach them. Thus does ALLAH make clear His Signs to mankind: that they may attain Taqwa." (Al-Baqara: 187)
Thus we are allowed to eat and enjoy our family life, even during Ramadan, but in the proper time and the proper way. This frees up more time for contemplation, Thikr and other activities in the pursuit of Taqwa. In other ayat, ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, teaches us that when one attains Taqwa, ALLAH will provide him a way out of all difficulties and HE will also provide him with sustenance from sources he could not even imagine. Attaining Taqwa is a marvelous state, for with a guaranteed way out of all difficulties and assurance of sustenance, one will feel peace and security. Reaping this reward requires effort and sacrifice and Ramadan and fasting have been granted as an aid to help us on the path to Taqwa.
At the same time, we have been permitted to eat at night, since we must eat to maintain our strength for worship. Also, we are permitted to enjoy our families since this is a normal human urge, which must be satisfied in a moral manner. And the limits for fasting and breaking the fast have been provided in a manner that can be understood by all.
We can learn other lessons and for each of us, Ramadan brings additional lessons. Some of us may identify with the poor and needy and be more generous in charitable contributions during this time. Others take time off of work to spend more time reciting and memorizing the Quran. Still others may make a greater effort to be tolerant, even when their rights are violated. We can all certainly use the ëshot in the armí that Ramadan provides us. As the Prophet, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, said: The losers are the ones who complete Ramadan without having gained anything but the deprivation of the fast.
Not everyone is able to fast and those who are exempted from fasting, either temporarily or permanently are disclosed in the Quran, along with any compensation they must make.
As has been the case for many years now, we continue to witness famine, suffering and war in many places of the world, both among Muslims and non-Muslims. We ask ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, to help guide us to the path HE has chosen for us and to give all of mankind the gift of peace and security. Ramadan Mubarak to all our friends, readers and the entire Muslim Ummah.
(For more information on Ramadan and fasting, review Surat Al-Baqara, especially ayat 183-187.)
Land O'Lakes, Inc completed its acquisition of Purina Mills, Inc. The combined organization will have annual feed sales revenues of $2.5 billion. (Reported in www.foodingredientsonline.com October 11, 2001.)
Fresher Under Pressure, Inc. announced expanding use of its ultrahigh-pressure food processing technology for the production of apple juice. The ultrahigh-pressure technology destroys bacteria and organisms that can cause health hazards and food spoilage, without compromising taste, texture, or nutritional value. It is used to extend the shelf life of products without the need for additives. The technology is applicable to a variety of products, including prepared meats, seafood, juice, vegetable and fruit products. (Reported in www.foodingredientsonline.com October 23, 2001.)
According to researchers from the Danish Veterinary Laboratory in Aarhus, organic chickens are three times as likely to be infected with the campylobacter food poisoning bug than regular chickens. These findings have been reported in volume 33 of Letters in Applied Microbiology. Karl Pedersen, the projectís lead scientist, commented: "The organic movement is sound, but this is unwelcome news." (Reported by www.just-food.com.)
Danone, the French food group, plans to acquire 40 percent of U.S. organic yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm. They will also be able to buy a majority stake in 2004. Stonyfield is the 4th largest yogurt brand in the United States. The deal must clear U.S. antitrust laws. Earlier we reported Danone had purchase a stake in Saudi Dairy conglomerate, Al Safi. (Reported by www.just-food.com)
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published several studies on the use of antibiotics in livestock. It appears the practice of feeding antibiotics to animals may have caused the bacteria found in livestock to become more resistant to the antibiotics. While humans use about 3 million pounds of antibiotics a year, animals are fed about 20 million pounds a year. Regarding salmonella, it was found that 20% of the test samples contained the salmonella germ. Of these 84% were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic and 53% percent were resistant to three or more. (Reported in www.msnbc.com October 14, 2001.)
Pennsylvania State Universityís Creamery is the largest university creamery in the United States. The Creamery is a working laboratory for the students in the College of Agricultural Sciences. In the Creamery, students learn about milk processing, cheese making, ice cream manufacturing and marketing. In cooperation with the food science department, the Creamery offers courses and workshops in dairy processing, sanitation and food analysis.
In addition to providing students with a hands on learning opportunity, the Penn State Creamery also supports the state's dairy industry, works with industry to solve problems, offers internships and produces dairy products for the University use and public sales.
The Creamery's ice cream making course attracts dairy manufacturers and small business owners from as far away as Brazil. The course was first offered in 1892.
The Creamery process around 3.5 million pounds of milk annually. The milk comes from the Universityís herd of 175 cows and from independent milk producers. Some of the products from the Creamery include lowfat 2% milk, lowfat chocolate milk, skim milk, sour cream, creamed cottage cheese, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, yogurt, ice cream, frozen yogurt and sherbet. These are consumed in the University dining halls and sold to the public.
Students conducting research on issues of flavor, microbiological makeup and nutrition use a pilot plant within the Creamery.
The Creamery is quite proud of its ice cream and it has been scooping it to the public since 1896. They claim the ice cream is so fresh that only four days pass between the production of the milk and the sale of the ice cream. Ice cream is produced by mixing the ingredients (milk, cream, vanilla, etc.), pasteurized (to destroy harmful bacteria), homogenized, cooled, semi-frozen, for nut and fruit flavored ice cream, the nuts and fruits are added and then it is cooled to -20°F. New flavors are frequently added and ice creams are often named after faculty members or others associated with the University.
(Extracted from the Pennsylvania State University, Department of Food Science, web site.)