FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City- The Philippine Army joins the Muslim community in celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan today.
About 5,000 Army soldiers who practice Islam and who are celebrating the Eid, are allowed to spend their time at home when they are not on actual duty.
The Muslim soldiers are under the spiritual guidance of two Imams in the persons of Maj. Farouk B Sarip of the 4th Infantry Division and Maj. Adzramien T. Sahisa of the 1stInfantry Division.
Both are dedicated and passionate military chaplains who are doing their best to provide emotional and spiritual guidance to all Muslim soldiers, especially at a significant time like the Ramadan.
The Importance of Ramadan- The Month of Fasting
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and is considered by the Muslims as the holiest month as it signifies the revelation of the Holy Qur’an to Prophet Mohammad.
Muslims all over the world fast every year during this month from dawn to dusk.
Fasting is not just the usual notion of people as the act of abstaining from eating, drinking and having sexual intercourse, which are categorized as the physical aspects.
It also includes refraining from the negative habits such as gossiping, cursing, lying and badmouthing others.
Sahisa explained that when one fasts during Ramadan, the lust, hatred, arrogance, mischief and other evil doing and undesirable acts of man are suppressed.
"During Ramadan, the heart of the man that boosts love, respect, understanding, and compassion to man is alleviated. It is more essential than life, it elevates man’s relation to God,” he said.
Fasting is a mandatory obligation for every Muslim who is able, except for the pregnant women, the old-aged, the travellers, the sick ones, the insane, the women in their menstrual period and the women who have just laboured a child up to forty five days.
Sarip started fasting when he was seven years old.
“Traditionally, parents train children ages 7-10 yrs old on how to fast so it will be easier for them to do so in the future,” he added.
As a young boy, he has fond memories during Ramadan.
“When we were little kids, we were always excited to go home because we know Buka (the time of breaking the fast) is just a few more hours away and our mother cook earlier than usual as we hover in the kitchen counting the minutes and looking at those yummy foods we know we’ll get to eat soon,” Sarip shares.
Sahisa on the other hand, finds it difficult to pinpoint which of his Ramadan memories matters the most.
“There have been many memories in my life. Some of which are spiritual while others are physical, like every Ramadan, our financial problem eases and my spiritual senses are also uplifted and mended. My ulcer was healed and I believe it is because of Ramadan,” he said.
Ramadan in military camps
In the 1st Infantry Division, where there are 1,600 Muslim soldiers observing Ramadan even on duty, except during operations, has become part of their yearly body clock.
“Muslim soldiers are no different from other Muslims who are obliged to fast. I strongly encourage everyone in my unit to fast, because it will evoke discipline in and will uplift their moral and spiritual value as soldiers,”explains Sahisa.
Another imam, Sarip also supported Sahisa’s statement.
“It is an obligation of every Muslim regardless of what work you have,” he said.
For the past years, with the leadership of the Muslim chaplains, certain religious activities are conducted to completely celebrate the essence of Ramadan. Congregational prayers are conducted not only for soldiers, but is also open for Muslim dependents and civilians near camps.
Muslim soldiers in the 1stInfantry Division have also been exempted from strenuous command activities, are given financial assistance on the provision of Pabuka “Iftar” (fast-breaking meal) at the Division Mosque, financial assistance on the celebration, Eid’l Fitr Command Lunch and the Tabak Muslim Family Day Outing. Likewise, a 10-day Ramadan break is a privilege that every Muslim soldier is entitled to.
Meanwhile, in the 4th Infantry Division where more than 600 Muslim soldiers are deployed, included in their annual practices are the Qur’an reading, Muslim dancing and the congregational prayers.
Sarip narrated that all the division commanders of 4ID over the years have been very supportive of the Muslims when it comes to exercising their religion.
“When we break our fast, some of the non-Muslims sit and eat with us and at times like this, respect and unity among us with different faiths are evident,” disclosed Sarip.
A Soldier and a Muslim
Sahisa explains that fasting profoundly changed him as a person and a soldier. He felt complete, gained confidence and he became more careful in everything that he does.
He further added that his body seems fit for physical fitness test (PFT), and he’s more willing to help others in any way.
“Fasting comes more naturally for us soldiers because we are used to hardships; we are used to sacrifices,” he expressed with conviction.
***(Written by Hannah Amilhasan, Office of the Army Chief Public Affairs; photo by Pfc Jomar Sarcia)