IF the Christians rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ calling it Christmas day in December, Muslims celebrate Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar (Hijri), where the Holy Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad (Sallallahu-Alaihi Wasallam).

Ramadan is set to begin in the second week of August. It begins the day after the new moon is sighted.

As most understand it, it is a month of fasting which means abstaining from eating and drinking. Their fasting starts at sunrise at around 4:00 in the morning and ends right before 6:00 in the evening. But it is much more than that.

The act of fasting, for Muslims, is a way to redirect their heart away from worldly activities. Their attention is focused towards their remembrance of God and studying the Holy Qur'an in abundance.

This is the time when they do not think of their worldly wants and needs but instead reassess their lives in light of Islamic guidance. It is also the time when they make peace with everyone and strengthen ties with family, relatives, and friends.

For them, fasting creates a sense of equality between the rich and the poor. By developing an appreciation of hunger and thirst, it makes them think of the needs of the poor.

It makes them appreciate the state a human being endures when hungry and thirsty. Thus, they feel compassion in their hearts.

While they do the fasting, they also spend the rest of the day in prayer and contemplation.

But as soon as the daily fast ends, some Muslims host communal feasts in their neighborhoods at sunset. Some celebrate it like a feast with their families making sure that every member is around. Foods, in every variety, are then abundant.

In other countries like Malaysia, Muslims enjoy Ramadan buffets in restaurants and hotels in discounted prices. Bazaars are everywhere and customers love the stalls featuring textiles, ready-made cloths and decorative items mostly on sale.

These have become a fascinating event in Malaysia that's why they attract visitors from the neighboring countries like the Philippines and China. Muslims and even non-Muslims gather and celebrate Ramadan there.

The bazaars, beautiful lanterns, delicious foods, and festive mood remind Christians of Christmas. If Christians give out Christmas cards to their friends and loved ones, Muslims, too, have Eid cards for them. Those bazaars in Malaysia look like the tiangge we have where people swarm like bees and ants just to be able to buy some items to give.

Though some Muslim Filipinos do not celebrate Ramadan with big bazaars in the Philippines or anything like that of Malaysia, they still find peace and joy in this Holy Month. But some of them also wish that Ramadan be considered a joyous celebration like the way how Christians celebrate during Christmas.

"I am hopeful that there will come a time when Ramadan will truly be celebrated and accepted nationwide in the Philippines, not just in Mindanao," says Bai Ashrafia Aymee Mitmug, a Filipino Muslim lawyer who is now the Executive Director of the Bureau on Cultural Heritage in Armm.

She said this after she visited Malaysia and celebrated Ramadan there where she joyfully pondered on her experiences in hotels and restaurants with good foods and malls with discounted prices.

With Ramadan as the most important time for Muslims to purify their souls, this is also the time for non-Muslims to understand and appreciate their observance of their Holy Month. (Maria Gemima C. Valderrama)