Dumaguete Muslim community pray for peace during Ramadan

A peaceful resolution to the conflict in Gaza is on top of the list of prayers of the Muslim community in Dumaguete City during the holy month of Ramadan this year.

Dumaguete City community affairs officer Dionie Amores, who is a congregant of Masjidus Salam in Barangay Bagacay, said they worry for their Muslim brothers and sisters who are affected by the ongoing war in Gaza.

“Bug-at na sa amo (ang) nahitabo in Gaza especially (sa) mga igsoon namong mga Muslim,” said Amores.

(We are also troubled with what’s happening in Gaza and we are worried, especially for our Muslim brethren.)

She said a special prayer for the non-violent conclusion to the Israel-Gaza attacks is offered in their Taraweeh or evening prayers during this year’s Ramadan observance, and in Duaa, when Muslims convene at the mosque every Friday to worship Allah.

“Hopefully there will be peace. We do Duaa prayers for our brothers and sisters especially for the children na affected ana na giyera karon (who are affected by the war). They are also human beings,” said Amores.

Journalist Roy August “Abdul Rauf” Bustillo, also a congregant of Masjidus Salam, shared that their community is also doing what they can to help the victims of the attacks.

“The Gaza genocide conflict is a worldwide concern not only to Muslims but to Christians as well. Prayers and donations are the priority especially to the Palestinians affected,” said Bustillo.

Life of prayer, fasting

Muslims embrace a life of prayer and fasting for 30 days during Ramadan. Amores and Bustillo describe this as a period for Muslims to deepen their connection to Allah through ardent prayers and fasting, which always go together.

You have to pray five times especially in Ramadan because useless ang imong fasting kung wala kay five times na prayer,” Amores said.

(You have to pray five times, especially in Ramadan. Fasting is useless if you don’t pray.)

“It is Biblical. Jesus (Peace be upon Him) fasted for 40 days and night. He discerned and prayed to deepen the relationship with your Creator. So as in Islam,” Bustillo added.

Representatives from the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Visayas, Local Office of Muslim Affairs in Mandaue City, Cebu Muslim Brotherhood, Cebu Ulamas, Cebu traders and businessmen, and Muslim leaders and communities conducting the moon sighting activity in Toledo City, Cebu on March 10. Sighting of the moon signifies the start and end of Ramadan. (Photo courtesy of Office of Muslim Affairs and Indigenous Cultural Communities Cebu City FB page)
Moon sightings and start of Ramadan

National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Visayas regional director Onasis Omar Balt explained the importance of moon sighting and its crucial role in determining the start of Ramadan.

“Napakaimportante po ng moon sighting sapagkat ito po ay nagdedetermine kung kailan magsisimula ang Ramadan at eto rin ay pinag-uutos ni Propeta Muhammad na lahat ng mga muslim binibigyan ng pag-aanyaya na mag-conduct nga moon sighting,” said Balt.

(The moon sighting is important because it determines when Ramadan will begin. This is also according to our Prophet Muhammad that all Muslims are invited to conduct moon sightings.)

The start of the holy month varies each year as it aligns with the Islamic calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle.

“Kapag ang moon ay nagkaroon nga pagharang ng kalangitan or maulap, ang sabi ni Propeta Muhammad sa Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam ay mag-Ramadan kayo sa susunod na araw,” said Balt.

(When the moon is obscured by clouds or haze, Prophet Muhammad [Peace Be Upon Him] said, ‘Begin Ramadan the next day.’)

If the crescent moon is not sighted, Muslims may resort to astronomical calculations or religious guidance to determine the start of the observance.

Sam Aguam, a BPO worker in Cebu, says her workplace has been understanding and supportive of her observance of Ramadan. Her supervisor allows her breaks during her shift for the fasting hours. (Photo from Sam Aguam FB)
Support from private, public employers

In Cebu, 29-year-old Sam Aguam said her workplace has been understanding and supportive of the observance of Ramadan.

Working for a business process outsourcing company, Sam said her supervisor allows her breaks during her shift for the fasting hours.

“During the holy month last year, I was on the night shift. I asked my supervisor if I could have a specific time to eat during my shift which is from 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.  Our fasting hours usually start at 4:30 a.m, so I take my lunch during that time and it’s fine with them,” recalls Aguam.

She was also allowed to take a vacation leave prior to “Eid” or the end of Ramadan.

“Usually, I would request for a week-long vacation leave prior to the Eid to go to Iligan and celebrate Eid with my family. And so far, they have approved,” said Aguam.

Muslim workers in the Cebu City government were also granted modified working hours by the city’s Human Resource Development Office from March 12 to April 12.

Meanwhile, the Dumaguete City government has also granted flexible working arrangements for its Muslim employees during Ramadan. Amores said he was allowed to go to the mosque every noontime and 3:00 p.m. to pray and fulfill his obligations during  the holy month.

The Civil Service Commission has earlier instructed government agencies to provide flexible work arrangements for Muslim officials and employees during the fasting period of Ramadan.

Importance of fasting

During the holy month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset from 4:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Fasting during Ramadan involves refraining from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse from sunrise to sunset.

“We have this fasting hour which is 12 to 17 hours wherein we don’t eat nor drink water,” Aguam explained.

Bustillo added that Muslims also do away with smoking during this time. Amores also shared that, in some instances, Muslims also spit out their saliva whenever they say something bad.

Muslims eat a pre-dawn meal called “sahur” before doing their fasting. They then break the fast with a meal called “iftar” which is eaten after sunset.

Amores explained all these acts lead to the cleansing of the body and the spirit and also strengthening the relationship with the Creator.

The Muslim community in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City praying before they partake of the free iftar distributed by the NCMF Visayas Regional Office with the assistance from the Embassy of the State of Qatar. The NCMF has been distributing free iftar to several mosques in Visayas in line with the month-long Ramadhan Iftar Program. (Photo courtesy of NCMF Visayas FB page)
Of ‘iftar’ and dates

Balt shared that during this time, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, give free iftar, engage in a series of prayers, and do Quran citation.

Iftar is a meal taken by Muslims at sundown to break the daily fast during Ramadan.

Aguam explained that during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, it was customary to break the fast with water and three dates. “If you break your fast, you consume water and three dates as practiced by the Prophet after his iftar,” she said.

Although eating dates to break the fast is a preferred practice, dates are not always available to Muslims in the Philippines.

Balt said they receive dates from Muslims based in Saudi Arabia and from other donors, which they distribute to their members for their iftar.

Aguam compares Ramadan to how non-Muslim Filipinos celebrate Christmas.

“Personally, for me it’s like your Christmas celebration. For us, especially during the Eid, the families get together, pray, and prepare various dishes as we celebrate the end of the Ramadan,” she said.

NCMF Visayas Regional Director Onasis Balt (far right) supervising the preparation of free iftar at the Sittie Mariam Masjid in Cebu City. Sponsored by the Embassy of the State of Qatar, the NCMF distributed free food for the iftar of Muslim communities in Mosques/Masjids in the Visayas in observance of Ramdan. (Photo courtesy of NCMF Visayas FB page)
Acts of charity

Carrying out acts of charity is also important during Ramadan.

Bustillo said charity is expressed through food and gift giving to the less fortunate brothers and sisters in Islamic faith and even to non-members of the faith in the community.

“Cows, goats, and sheep’s meat is being distributed to the neighborhood regardless of faith,” he said, citing an example of how his congregation practiced charitable acts during this period.

Amores added that social responsibility is institutionalized also in Islamic Faith through its third pillar called Zakat.  Under the third pillar, followers of Islamic faith are required to set aside a portion of their income equivalent to 1.5 percent for charity.

“Kon naa ka income na P1,000 bulan what is 1.5 percent? Mao ra nay ihatag nimo sa tao, sa isa ka igsoon nimong Muslim na nagkahinanglan. (Ihatag na) Not necessarily sa Imam o sa Ustad (but) to a person na nahinanglan kay murag tabang na siya sa kaugalingon na dili makita,” Amores said.

(If you earn P1,000, you share at least 1.5 percent of that with your Muslim brethren who are in need. It’s not necessary to channel it through an Imam or an Ustad but give it directly to the person. In that way, you are helping someone privately.)

The NCMF has declared the start of Ramadan on March 12 while Eid’l Fitr is set on April 10, three days after the month-long Ramadan fasting. (RAL/MYP/PIA7)

Members of the Muslim community in Danao City, Cebu doing their early morning prayer as a solemn manifestation of their faith, unity, and gratitude during the Eid al-Adha at the city’s boardwalk. (FILE PHOTO courtesy of Danao City Government FB page)
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