A couple from Libya and their two young children will be among scores of Muslims meeting for evening prayers and breaking daylong fasts during the monthlong observance of Ramadan at the Muslim Association of Hawaii’s Manoa mosque.
Abdulwahab Ewaz said the self-discipline required in observing the rituals is rigorous, but he and wife Basma Alarbi are used to it, as they’ve been practicing them since their teen years for the past 15 to 20 years.
Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, began June 17. Within the observance’s first few days, Ewaz said, the couple barely noticed their hunger and thirst.
Both physicians, Ewaz and his wife moved to Hawaii three years ago for higher education. He is employed, but Alarbi is not as she takes care of their son Mohamed, 4, and daughter Yomna, who is almost 2. During Ramadan, the couple’s day begins before 4:30 a.m., preparing breakfast which has to be eaten before the sun rises, and prayer. Their daily fast then lasts for about 14 hours, ending at sunset. The fast is broken after about 7 p.m., usually with milk and dates, Ewaz said in an email interview.
No one who is ill, pregnant or elderly is required to fast; and children are gradually allowed to undergo short fasts as they get older.
"In Ramadan, we improve our self-control. We control not only food and drink desire, but also we control our anger and purify our spirit, and learn from principles of Islamic religion how to love and forgive others," he said.
During Ramadan, "the reward for good deeds multiplies many times," Ewaz said. "By the end of month, I find myself practiced in how to be righteous, fruitful and beneficial," a habit that becomes easier to maintain the rest of the year. "It is a kind of charging our spirit with much energy to give ourselves a great forward push toward noble goals," he added.
Ramadan is also "an opportunity to be a better person and helpful to others and to the society. We are encouraged to do more good deeds and practice good manners."
Ewaz said he tries to help his wife prepare meals and wash the dishes when he gets home from work, since any physical exertion for her is more difficult when fasting. His usual jog after work is too strenuous during the fasting, though Ewaz said he sometimes exercises after dinner.
On some days, the family goes to the Muslim Association of Hawaii’s Manoa mosque for community prayers and a meal. They also listen to recitations from the Quran Imam (leader) Ismail Elshikh, who gives short teachings on how to be better Muslims and benefit society, Ewaz said.
"At the Islamic center, we socialize, talk and look for others in need, plan visiting sick people, ask about others. Any kind of charity — such as money, food, time — is highly encouraged during other months and more rewarded in Ramadan. I try to give some money to needy people" and invite people to break fasting together, Ewaz said.
When Ewaz and his wife, who wears a hijab (head scarf), go shopping, curious shoppers have asked them about the warfare and conflict in the Middle East as well as their religion.
In response, Ewaz said he has "explained to them that the word ‘Islam’ means ‘peace’ in the Arabic language, so it is a religion and message of peace and mercy. Whenever you find no mercy or no peace, then you should know and be sure that is not Islamic teaching at all."