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Arshad Yousufi 

Director, Islamic Society of Colorado Springs

According to Arshad Yousufi, past president and current director of the Islamic Society of Colorado Springs, there are about 250 Moslems in the Pikes Peak region. About a hundred families practice their religion at the Islamic Society building, located on Colorado Springs' Westside. Formed in 1988, the society was created by students to help Moslems observe their religion, perform worship and aid them in any way necessary in practicing Islam. Dec. 9 marked the beginning of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, or Ramadan, one of the most important holidays of the Islamic religion.

What is Ramadan? Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five practices that you have to do to be a Moslem. The word "Islam" means "submission to God." Islam requires you to believe that there is only one God and to believe in all the prophets, including Moses and Jesus, and that the prophet Muhammad is the last messenger of God. Along with those beliefs, you have to pray five times a day, give to charity, and you have to perform the hajj or the pilgrimage [to Mecca], and you have to fast the month of Ramadan. It is an obligation of every adult Moslem to fast the whole month. So it is basically in obedience to God.

How do you fast? The fast itself lasts from daybreak all the way until sunset. In that time, you may not eat or drink. You can think of it as conditioning. You have to restrain yourself from getting angry, from using bad language, from annoying or harming other people, and basically control yourself. You have to remember God and keep up all the other forms of worship that you are supposed to do. Good deeds this month are multiplied, so people give more to charity, do more good deeds. You remember the hunger and the thirst of those who do not have the means to eat properly.

What can you eat during the fast? There is a prohibition in Islam against eating swine flesh, so there are some foods that are prohibited regardless. Otherwise, there is no restriction. Tradition is to break the fast with dates, because in Arabia, dates are the cheapest form of food.

You probably celebrate like mad after the end of Ramadan. The month is lunar. Once the new moon is sighted for the first day of the next month, we call it eid ul-fitr. The day begins with a service. In Islamic countries, it would be held in a big open field, because everybody in the whole city would come to attend the prayer, followed by a short sermon. Then, people celebrate and visit each other, invite each other to feasts, give gifts and money to kids. In most Islamic countries, it would be a three-day holiday. Here, we take the day off and enjoy it with our kids and families and friends, visit each other and have parties and feasts.

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