Ben Tinsley spent weekend time with members of the local Islamic community during their holy month of fasting, introspection and prayer.

BURLESON – As many as 170 Muslims from the area attended a special Saturday night dinner held in observance of Ramadan.
The Masalah at which the meal took place –  on the second floor of a local medical building in Burleson –  is used by the Islamic Information and Education Center of Southwest Fort Worth. Center members have plans to expand from the Masalah and build a mosque nearby in the near future.
The invitation to the meal came from Dr. Mukhtar Anees, who has a popular practice in Burleson. The reporter who attended was greeted warmly by numerous area residents who took great pains to explain to him the length and breadth of their customs and traditions.
There are 1.6 billion Muslims throughout the world who undergo a period of daily fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
It is considered one of the biggest acts of religious observance – a time to  pray, fast, purify and perform charitable acts.
During Ramadan, from dawn to dusk, Muslims do not let food or drink pass their lips.
Ramadan began May 26 and will end Saturday, June 24. Two meals are served during observance of Ramadan – suhoor, served before dawn, and iftar, served after sunset.
Suhoor is designed to be a hearty, healthy meal to provide needed energy throughout a day of fasting. It ends when the sun rises and the fajr, or morning prayer, begins.
After the sun has set, the maghrib prayer begins. The day's fast is broken with iftar. Many Muslims break their fast by eating something sweet, such as dates, before they begin the iftar meal.
Muslims can continue eating and drinking throughout the night until the next day's suhoor. At the end of the Ramadan month, Muslims celebrate the Festival of Fast-Breaking, called Eid al-Fitr. Children often receive new clothes, gifts and cash. Muslims attend early morning Eid prayers the day after Ramadan. Families usually spend the day picnicking outside.
Both meals contain fresh fruit, halal meats, vegetables, cheeses, breads and sweets.
Many of these customs were patiently explained at length by regular members of the Islamic Information and Education Center. They say they take very seriously their mission to provide Islamic education, dispel any misconceptions about Islam, and serve the religious needs of the community.
Members such as Shoal Khalil, 42, Imam Mohammad Rashad, 74, Ghulam Ali, 50, and others contributed to the dialogue with the Burleson Star reporter.
Dr. Anees is known to many as a valued member of the Burleson community. He provides insight about the Muslim community to outsiders such as Burleson Police Chief Billy Cordell.
“Dr. Anees invited me to lunch around two years ago so we could meet and talk,” the police chief said. “Afterward, he invited me to attend a prayer service and I gladly accepted his invitation. I was warmly welcomed into the prayer service and quickly felt a genuine appreciation for my attendance.”
The relationship between doctor and police chief flourished, and soon the chief’s family attended subsequent prayer services, including Ramadan last year.
“My family has had several dinners with Dr. Anees and his family, of which we enjoy talking with,” the chief said. “We attended the first Ramadan service this year and will visit again.”
Cordell said as the chief of police, his job is to build relationships within the community he serves. He said his friendship with Dr. Anees has been an exceptional opportunity  to grow and learn more about a different culture.
“I value my relationship with Dr. Anees, his family and faith community, and look forward to our future,” he said.

Some information regarding Islamic customs and traditions that were used in this story are attributable to Associated Press reports.

Burleson Star

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