Story and photos by Spc. Lisa A. Cope
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Aug. 22 marked the beginning of Ramadan, the most holy month for members of the Islamic faith.
Ramadan is observed during the ninth month of the Islamic, or lunar, calendar. Muslims attempt to strengthen their spirit by abstaining from food, drink, sexual activity, becoming angry, smoking or any form of insincerity from sunrise to sunset.
Ramadan can be a trying time for Islamic Soldiers trying to adhere to Islamic teachings, but some Soldiers at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, have found ways to strengthen their faith during this time.
Muslims are required to pray five times a day. Because a mosque is not available on JBB, Spc. Nazha Lakrik, an Arabic interpreter for the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, said she prays in her room or in the Air Force Theater Hospital Chapel near her office.
Spc. Linda Boyed, an Arabic interpreter for the 555th Engineer Brigade, said Ramadan is a time for self-discipline, prayer and family.
“It is the right time to renew your relationship with God,” she said.
Fasting can be physically challenging but for many members of the Muslim faith fasting is spiritually rewarding.
God said everything you do is for you, but this month, the fasting, is for Him, said Lakrik.
In areas where Islam is the dominant religion, work days are shortened to accommodate the celebration of Ramadan. In theater, many service members perform duties that are rigorous and indispensible, which may make fasting more difficult or even impossible for them.
Lakrik, a native of Essouira, Morocco, said fasting on duty is not like fasting at home, where she sits down with her family and takes her time to eat and pray.
“During the iftar – the time for me to break my fast – I’m still working,” said Lakrik. “But God said when iftar comes you have to eat, so I have to throw something in my mouth just to break my fast and keep up with shift change.”
Spc. Fatima Benasser, an Arabic interpreter for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), said Ramadan is a particularly trying time for Muslim Soldiers to be away from their families.
“Ramadan gives families a chance to gather and wait for the sunset and have a meal together,” said Benasser.
The three-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which often includes feasting and gift-giving, begins Sept. 20, marking the end of Ramadan.
Spc. Nazha Lakrik, an Arabic interpreter for the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, says a prayer Aug. 26 in the Air Force Theater Hospital Chapel here.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lisa A. Cope)