SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - My name is Mona Mostafa and I am a 23-year-old Muslim-American living in South Brunswick, NJ.
Ramadan is my favorite time of year.
It's a time of focusing on my spirituality, my character, giving to others and of course being with loved ones. Many people know Ramadan to be a time of just fasting but its a lot more than that.
Ramadan is a month-long holiday in which we fast for two main reasons.
One reason is so that we could understand how the hungry feel around the world and be more appreciative of what we have throughout the rest of the year.
The second reason is because our appetite is the hardest thing to control, so if you could control that, then you could control abstaining from other sins.
Ramadan is an Islamic holiday in which we fast for an entire month.
When I say that, I mean that we fast every single day from sunrise to sunset (for an entire month) where we cannot eat or drink anything at all.
Everyone's experience with Ramadan is different so I can't speak for everyone but I personally don't find fasting that bad at all. In fact, I rarely ever feel hungry. Just thirsty, especially on warmer days.
This time of year, sunrise is earlier than usual so we wake up around 3 a.m. to eat and then wait until 8:30 p.m. to break our fast.
It's basically like having a very early breakfast, skipping lunch and then having a late dinner.
But there's really so much more to this blessed month than abstaining from food.
It's not only abstaining from food and water, but a time to get closer to God.
We (Muslims) fast so that we could appreciate the things we normally take for granted.
Waking up in itself is a blessing: Seeing, hearing, tasting, understanding... All of these things are blessings we should be thankful for. Ramadan gives us the opportunity to focus on that.
Another important aspect of Ramadan is the chance to grow spiritually.
It's a time to focus on prayer, reading the Quran (our Holy book) and giving to charity.
Our local mosque here in South Brunswick, for example, had an event where volunteers went to the local soup kitchen to prepare and serve lunch for others although they were fasting themselves.
Another community member from that same mosque, Azra Baig, started an amazing initiative called the Ramadan Sharing Initiative where she encourages other Muslims to share food and desserts with neighbors and coworkers during this blessed month.
Again, we fast to appreciate the blessings around us that others don't have.
Many children and families here in America and across the world don't have food, clean water, or even a place to live.
We should be grateful that we do, and we should appreciate it as much as we can and give back to society while doing so.
During the month of Ramadan, it is mandatory that every able Muslim with income donate at least 2.5 percent of their net posessions to charity, which is called Zakat.
Charity is incredibly important in Islam during Ramadan and throughout the entire year.
I saw a quote on Pintrest the other day that said that the point of Ramadan is not to deprive you, but to revive you.
That couldn't be more true.
God isnt trying to torture us or punish us by asking us not to eat.
The purpose of Ramadan is to recognize and understand the blessings we take for granted, to strengthen our faith, and to give to those in need.
It's a beautiful month where families and friends gather around to break fast (iftar), where we pray and ask for forgiveness, where we focus on learning more about our faith and where we give to the less fortunate.
There's so many amazing parts to Ramadan from the spiritual benefits of it to the daily taraweeh prayers at the mosque to breaking our fast amongst our closest family and friends.
During this month, its very common to be invited over a family or friends house to break the fast.
Its kind of like having thanksgiving dinner every day for 30 days where you sit around a table with great food and company and recognize all that you are thankful for.
That's the beauty of Ramadan: recognizing your blessings, giving to others, being around loved ones and ultimately, getting closer to God.
Editor's Note: Mona Mostafa is a South Brunswick resident writing a four-part series of her personal journey through the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.