New converts' first holy month

New converts' first holy month

The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan started yesterday. But for many new converts, abstaining from food and drink for about 13 hours a day can be challenging.

Helping these new believers is the Muslim Converts' Association of Singapore, or Darul Arqam, located at Onan Road in Joo Chiat.

Since 1980, the organisation has been looking into the welfare, religious guidance and problems faced by new converts to Islam here. About 600 people here convert to Islam each year, said a Darul Arqam spokesman.

According to a Straits Times report from 2003, that figure was about 500 about a decade ago.

In the 1970s, the number of converts averaged about 200 a year. In the 1980s, that number was about 400.

This number includes Chinese and Indian Singaporeans as well as Filipinos and Americans.

Many converts here consider Darul Arqam a second home, where they regularly attend weekly lectures or to volunteer during weekends.

All these programmes, which includes classes on Ramadan preparation and prayers, are planned with converts in mind.

The spokesman said: "We are taking an easy and simple approach for the new Muslims so that they can enjoy fasting and its benefits on their first Ramadan."

Islam requires all healthy Muslims to fast during Ramadan to spiritually cleanse themselves and to understand the sufferings of those less fortunate.

However, pregnant or menstruating women, as well as Muslims who are too old or too ill are exempted from fasting.

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