Marshallese Muslims observing prayers during Ramadan. Photo: Imam Matiullah Joyia.
For the 150 members of the Marshall Islands’ Muslim community, this lunar month is the most holy of the year – the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan commemorates the Prophet Mohammad receiving Islam’s holy book, the Koran, from Allah, Islam’s name for God.
The dates for Ramadan follow the lunar calendar and therefore change every year. In 2014, Marshallese Muslims fast between June 30 and July 28.
During this month, followers of Islam abstain from food and drink, including water, during daylight hours. This is approximately 5am to 7pm for Marshall Islanders.
Those fasting for Ramadan eat a meal, called sehri, before the sun rises and will not eat or drink again until the sun sets. After the sun has set, they break their fast with a meal called iftar.
But it’s not only food that believers abstain from.
“During the day, apart from restraining from food and water, Muslims are particularly exhorted from vain talk, quarrels and fights, or from any such occupation as is below the dignity of a true believer,” explains Matiullah Joyia, the leader, called an imam, at Majuro’s mosque.
The philosophy behind abstaining is to develop spiritually, emotionally and personally.
“Among other things, he [the person fasting] learns through personal experience about what hunger, poverty, loneliness and discomforts mean to the less fortunate sections of society,” says Imam Joyia.