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Dear Friends,

I pray that you are staying safe and maintaining a healthy mind, body, and soul during these challenging and uncertain times.

Today is a special day because it marks the beginning of the Holy month of Ramadan for Muslims around the globe. Normally, I would not make mention of Ramadan unless I also offered up similar sentiments at the appropriate times to those around the world who celebrate their own rich religious holidays and traditions.

However, this year is different. We are facing a global pandemic that has swept across the earth and infiltrated every country and community. Nearly all of us know of someone who has been affected by this virus in some manner; some more intimately and painful than others.  In a way, this frightening and surreal situation has helped to unite us, no matter what continent or country we call home, and no matter what religious holidays we celebrate. Over the past two months, I have witnessed the best of humanity emerge in the most unexpected ways.

So as we begin this month of Ramadan, sheltering in place because of COVID-19, I realized that the meaning and spirit of Ramadan may be even more significant and instructive this year than any other time in recent history.

Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, requires the faithful to fast from water and food from sunup to sunset while abstaining from any harmful speech or behavior. There are exceptions made for those who are sick—and a few others—but, for the most part, every Muslim regardless of sect adheres to its tenants.  Ramadan instructs sacrifice, self-control and discipline while teaching empathy for those who are without, and the practice of charity and giving. Required reading of the Quran over the course of Ramadan reminds followers that they are also on a spiritual path with God during their life here on earth that cannot be ignored.

As a result, Ramadan frees us from our everyday hectic life styles. It is a time of fasting that helps to purify the body and mind. It creates a space for spiritual reflection and introspection for us to take stock of our lives; to shed negative and harmful thoughts, practices and behaviors and adopt new ones that nourish, encourage and support. It is an opportunity to start anew and rededicate to becoming our better selves while strengthening our spiritual relationship with God.

Whatever faith you may follow, let us take this time to reconnect with family, friends and community, but more importantly with ourselves and God. I pray that we all come through this time healthier, stronger and more mindful than we have ever been.

Ramadan Mubarak!