Jama Masjid, Delhi, India Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
Many Americans will be feasting with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, and the holiday’s emphasis on food reminded me of my recent experiences in Delhi.
The end of my summer internship this past August brought me to the Puraani Shehar (in the Urdu language), or the Old City section of India’s capital, on the first night of the 9th month in the Muslim lunar calendar, Ramadan. Throughout the holy month, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, and sexual relations from sunrise until sunset. The fast is traditionally ended by eating dates and followed by a congregational prayer in a mosque or the home of a local Muslim who is holding an iftar—the evening meal marking the end of the day’s fast.
Photo: Lila Garnett
Following his appearance on a recent Inside Islam Radio Show, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin–environmental activist and author of Green Deen–spoke to a large crowd at the University of Wisconsin-Madison about Islam’s obligation for Muslims to care for the planet. The event drew Muslims and non-Muslims of all ages, and Abdul-Matin’s presentation matched the practical approach of his book.
Eid ul-Fitr Prayers in Mecca
This year’s observation of Ramadan ended on September 20th with the Eid ul-Fitr festivities. Muslims from around the world spent the day celebrating the completion of one of the pillars of Islam. Each year, Ramadan lasts either 29 or 30 days. The beginning and end are determined in different ways. In the United States, for example, the largest Muslim organization, The Islamic Society of North America, uses calculations while many other countries depend on moon sighting. This year, there was relative consensus on Sunday.
The Eid celebrations begin with a morning communal prayer followed by a sermon. The sermon for this holiday typically revolves around fasting and the consequent spiritual growth. Because of the diversity of the Muslim worldwide community, Eid festivities are colored by cultural traditions that are most obvious after the prayer and sermon are completed. Continue reading
On August 21st, with Ramadan beginning in most countries the following day, President Obama issued a Ramadan message to Muslim communities around the world. This is another gesture by the President to work on the relations between the United States and Muslims worldwide. For me, though, this message was unique. Growing up as a Muslim American, Ramadan was never formally recognized by the larger American community, except on a local level. President Obama’s more visible efforts to fully incorporate the Muslim American community have led to more awareness–positive awareness, I should say–of Islam and the commonalities that it shares with other faiths.
Around August 22nd, Ramadan will begin. Ramadan, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is supposed to be a month of fasting, increased reading of the Qur’an, and prayer. In the 20th century, the spirit of Ramadan has taken a different turn in parts of the Muslim world, where commercialism has tapped into the financial potential of the month. This aspect of Ramadan is most obvious in the Middle East where for many Ramadan has become a month of feasting, increased shopping, and parties! In the United States, while there are some companies such as Hallmark which are starting to make greeting cards for Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr (the holiday marking the end of Ramadan), Ramadan has yet to be as commercialized as Christmas. Continue reading
Muslims breaking their fast
While many people may know that Ramadan is a month of fasting, they may not realize the social and cultural aspects of the month. Ramadan, as I mentioned in my first post on the topic, is probably the most social time of the year. In addition to more time in the mosque, Muslims spend more time socializing during Ramadan. Ramadan is definitely a time of festivity. Continue reading
The importance of Ramadan within the Muslim worldview cannot be emphasized enough. Every year in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims all over the world fast from sunrise to sunset each day and many spend the month in increased prayer, reading of the Qur’an, and visiting with family and friends. Ramadan is probably the most social time of the year. Ramadan has religious, social, cultural, and even political and economic significance that should be addressed in any discussion of the month.
This week I will be writing about the different components of Ramadan and would like to hear your ideas for a radio show on the topic that will air during Ramadan. What aspects of Ramadan do you think are most significant? What are the different cultural components of Ramadan? Do any parts of Ramadan confuse you? What is the place of fasting in this day and age? Does fasting always produce spiritual growth? Do you think that women and men experience fasting differently? How does the experience of fasting depend on context? Did you know that in the Middle East television series flourish during Ramadan? Is this part of the social component? Can fasting be a foundation for interfaith initiatives?
These are just a few possible questions. Please share your ideas and questions and help us as we develop the next radio show.
On June 30th, 2009, the New York City Council passed a resolution to add the Muslim holidays–Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha–to the public schools’ holiday calendar. Both of these holidays are significant for Muslims worldwide as the first marks the end of Ramadan,the holy month of fasting, and the second marks the end of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. With Ramadan coming right around the corner, the last week in August, I can’t help but remember my own struggles growing up when I would miss school to celebrate these holidays with my family and friends. Many times, exams, group activities, presentations would be scheduled on one (sometimes both) of the two holidays and I would then have to reschedule or simply miss out on something important at school. This resolution would relieve many Muslim American students from having to make that difficult decision.