Islamic Center, Shields honor An-Nas Day

By Caitlyn Christensen

Chaplain David McCarthy stood at the door of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh on Sunday night,… Chaplain David McCarthy stood at the door of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh on Sunday night, An-Nas Day, greeting guests of all denominations as they removed their shoes before entering the mosque. ‘Today is to show that all of us really can live together inside Pittsburgh and make this a beautiful community,’ said McCarthy. The Islamic Center opened in observance of An-Nas (Humanity) Day, a part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Visitors and guests watched members of the Muslim community perform the Maghrib, the Sunset Prayer. Some broke the Ramadan fast with them. Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and prayer and ritual fast mark Ramadan from sunrise to sunset. In addition to abstinence from food and drink, Muslims avoid sex, violence and cursing. Fasting is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. For the first time at the annual event, the Pittsburgh City Council recognized and commended the Islamic Center for its role in the Pittsburgh Muslim community. President Doug Shields spoke about An-Nas Day’s spirit of inclusiveness. ”An-Nas’ is a word that simply means human being,’ said Shields. ‘It does not limit itself to a particular religion.’ McCarthy agreed. He called Islam a religion ‘that very much stands for justice in the world.’ McCarthy also mentioned the prominence of Pittsburgh in the religious community. He said that after Sept. 11, Jewish, Christian and Muslim community leaders in the area encouraged representation of all faiths at different religious functions through the year. ‘Pittsburgh is a standard for interfaith dialogue,’ said McCarthy. Pitt student Megan Babb attended the ceremony with the members of her Arabic Studies Learning Community. She said they hoped to gain first-hand experience with the Islamic custom. ‘Especially with all of the conflict that’s going on in the world today, I think it’s important that we learn about different cultures like this,’ said Babb. Dick and Marilyn Myers, who are Methodists, said they went to the event for the same reason. At the dinner preceding the program they spoke to Jawaria Ansari, a Muslim woman, about the significance of the Ramadan fast. ‘The general concept of fasting is self-control, trying to break from bad habits,’ said Ansari. ‘It also reminds us that there is still a huge amount of people in the world who don’t know where their next meal will come from.’ And that’s a message the Christians could identify with. ‘It sounds a lot like the Christian Lent,’ said Dick Myers.