Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Farook Khan, right, talks with Yasir Latif and Atlanta chapter President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazeem Pudhiapura, left, prior to taking part in the daily prayers of the month long holiday of Ramadan at the Baitul Baqi Mosque in Norcross on Aug. 10, 2012.
NORCROSS -- At 8:20 p.m. tonight, Muslims will break their fast with dates and fruit, recite prayers and eat dinner. By Sunday morning at 5:50 a.m., they will go back to fasting when the sun rises again.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Norcross, like millions of other Muslims around the world, won't eat food or drink water from dawn until sunset as part of the monthlong religious holiday of Ramadan, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which brings worshippers closer to God.
"The message for Ramadan, for us being Ahmadiyya Muslims, we believe in the Messiah ... we particularly preach nonviolence," said Hazeem Pudhiapura, Jamat President of Atlanta's Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. "Ramadan is a special time of year that Muslims join in special prayers to be closer to God, and also to increase their social and moral values with fellow human beings."
In the past month, two tragedies took place: the Colorado movie theater and Sikh temple shootings. Both events shook the Ahmadiyya Community to its moral core.
"(Ramadan) is a special time and it is unfortunate that we saw violence, particularly the one which is against religious minorities, which is done due to hatred and is done due to race, color, the way they dress or the way the person thought who the other person was. It's quite unfortunate," Pudhiapura said. "We are preaching the message, 'Love for all. Hatred for none.' This has been our slogan throughout the world and there is no better time than now to preach that message throughout our nation and the world."
With these two events in the news, the Norcross mosque continued to fast daily and pray together for peace around the world, while also working on themselves as individuals.
"I learned to be more patient, to think about others before myself, to be more compassionate like our motto says, 'Love for all. Hatred for none,'" said Anesia McRae, who is visiting from Willingboro, N.J. "You repeatedly see that, but at Ramadan it's ingrained in you and it's a reflection."
On Sunday, the mosque of Baitul Baqi in Norcross -- and others of the Islamic faith -- will gather together to celebrate the end of Ramadan with an event called Eid al-Fitr or "festivity of breaking the fast." The feast begins after sundown or 8:19 p.m.
In anticipation of Eid, everyone buy news clothes in bright, vibrant colors and patterns, plus gifts for small children and immediate family, which are given out during the meal. The men and women eat a buffet of food, which usually includes basmati rice, chicken, salad and sweets.
Also kicking off on Sunday is the Atlanta chapter's second "Muslims for Life" campaign in Lucky Shoals Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This a nationwide movement which is determined to collect 11,000 units of blood to reiterate the message that Islamic values the sanctity of life.
"The basic idea of the campaign is to promote the message of sanctity of life, which is very much needed at this point and time," Pudhiapura said. "The value of life has become so cheap nowadays. ... Ahmadiyya Muslims are promoting this message -- it's not only for our fellow brothers and citizens in our country, but our fellow Muslims to clarify their misconceptions with ... the terrorism and the suicide bombers -- none of this is part of Islam."
Many of the members at the Norcross mosque are dedicated to the cause since its message is a part of their lives.
"The sanctity of life is all we talk about and hopefully one day the message will get through," said. Bushra Qamar of Duluth. "We're not going to retaliate. Our answer to them is that we're going to collect blood. We were motived last year, but we're even more motivated this year."
For more information about the campaign and mission, visit muslimsforlife.org.