Celebrating Ramadan in the United States

Ramadan is an Islamic holiday in which Muslims fast for a month. Learn more from international students in America who are observing the holiday.

Ramadan is a month of the Islamic calendar, all Muslims observe this as a month of fasting. Ramadan started on June 18, 2015 and will end July 17. The dates may vary because it depends on being able to see the moon. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

This video explains very clearly what you need to know about Ramadan. 

 

I had a chance to speak with some international students studying in the United States about what Ramadan means to them.

Nassar Alnassar is from Saudi Arabia. He studies English as a Second Language (ESL) now. He will soon start his bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing at Kent State University.

Nassar Alnassar international student voice magazine

  [typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: Can you explain what Ramadan is? [/typography] 

Nassar: Most people think it is just about not eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset, but this is not the big point. The big point is spiritual. It is to feed the soul and it is ritual. All during the year we feed the body, but this month we feed the soul. Ramadan helps you gain self-control. The second reason which is also very important is that you will feel what the needy and poor  feel when they do not have food. When you feel what they feel, it will make you consider helping them by giving them food, money, or clothes. For instance, in my country if there is a wealthy people, they will look who are in need to help them. Researchers found out, it is very good and healthy to the body to fast at least one month in the year. It is going to clean your organs.  

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: How do you celebrate this holiday?[/typography]

Nassar: We have two celebrations in the day: During the day you are fasting and when the iftar time comes (sunset), many families gather to have the iftar together. Every family cook special dishes and all of them share. The second celebration is something religious after Isha prayer, the“night prayer”, is the night-time daily prayer recited by practicing Muslims. The people pray more because you want to make good deeds.

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”] Sarah:What are some traditional food you eat?  [/typography] 

Nassar: Samosa, Luqaimat and I also follow the prophet Mohammed (peace and prayer be upon him) habit in starting eating at the Iftar time dates and in my country we usually drink Arabic coffee, at Iftar time soup is very important dish.   

Courtesy of munatycooking.com
Example of Luqaimat. Courtesy of munatycooking.com

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”] Sarah:Have there been any challenges of celebrating Ramadan in the United States/away from home? Have you found solutions to those challenges yet? [/typography]

Nassar: No, actually I consider the United States atmosphere a good test for my self-control in fasting. I miss my parents, but here I find all the Muslims are my family as well. The only challenge is the time of fasting in the United States, it is seven hours late from Middle East time, our Iftar here after 9 P.M

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: What else would you like to share about Ramadan?[/typography]

Nassar: When Ramadan finishes, there is Eid Alfatar. This is really a big day and we celebrate together. There is a special prayer for this Eid. After Eid prayer, we visit our relatives and in my country specifically some people may arrange to visit the sick people in the hospitals. The motive for that is just to give them moral support and to make them feel that they are not alone and we haven’t forgotten them. The visitors may give them chocolates, desserts, gifts or may be just a smile to make the sick people feel the joy of the Eid. In Eid Alfatar, the adults give the children money, toys or gifts to celebrate. Some adults give money to other adults. My grandfather and my grandmother used to give me money. 

 

Rayan Sairafi from Saudi Arabia.  He studies English as a Second Language (ESL) now. He plans to study at Kent State University for a bachelor’s degree in biomedical Engineering.    

Rayan Sairafi_international stuent voice

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: Tell me what are the differences fasting for Ramadan in the U.S. from Saudi Arabia?[/typography]

Rayan: Ramadan is a holy month. All Muslims should fast in this month. We can not drink or eat for 17 hours in the U.S. It is different from Saudi Arabia because in Saudi Arabia we fast 14 or 15 hours. I find it very hard to fast in Ramadan in the U.S. because everybody drink and eat here while in my country nobody eats or drinks during Ramadan.  

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: Then how do you cope fasting in the U.S.?[/typography]

Rayan: It is very hard to fast 17 hours. For 17 hours you do not eat and drink. I also love to listen to music but as long as I am fasting. I should not do this. I should read the holy book of Muslims (Quran). I found solutions for these challenges. I sleep in the morning time.  I read the Quran in the afternoon. Finally, I cook my food then it will be the time of Iftar.

The Quran
The Quran
[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: Is there something we do not know about Ramadan?[/typography]

Rayan: Ramadan is the happiest month in the year.

 

Mouna Camara from Mali. She is a student at University of Maryland, College Park. She is doing her bachelor’s degree in communications.

Flag of Mali
Flag of Mali
[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: What is Ramadan from your perspective?[/typography]

Mouna: Ramadan is holy month of Muslims. All Muslims should fast from dawn to dusk. It is one of the obligations of Islamic religion.    

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: How do you celebrate this holiday? [/typography]

Mouna: Before celebrating the holiday. The fasting goes about a month. After fasting month, we have a huge festival where friends and family gather together, asking one another for forgiveness from the wrongdoings and celebrate with a lot of food. Some of known dishes are couscous, lamb, it depends on every country, but lamb is the main dish. In my country, for example we tend to make tailor design clothes called “ bazan”.

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: What kind of things do you reflect upon during this holiday?[/typography]

Mouna: You think how to fast and how to become closer to your god. You are not supposed to lie and all your intentions ought to be good.

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]What do you usually eat and drink when you break your fast every day during Ramadan?[/typography]

Mouna: When it is time to break your fast, it is recommended to do it with traditional hot tea, dates and that is called Iftar and Maghrib prayer (evening prayer). You can fill yourself up. Some people prefer have their dish after their prayer in the mosque.   

Dates are just one of the things people eat when fasting is over.
Dates are just one of the things people eat when fasting is over.
[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: How does Ramadan test you? [/typography]

Mouna: You focus in what are you doing and I do not think about the reward I am going to get from fasting nor do I account day by day how many days I have to fast.   

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: What do you do if you can not fast in Ramadan?[/typography]

I always think whenever I cannot fast, I give five dollars or lunch meal money donation to homeless person that I pass by or come cross.  

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Sarah: What are the biggest misconceptions about Ramadan?[/typography]

Mouna: One of the misconceptions people think is that you are starving yourself and it’s hard to do.  It is hard for them to believe that you cannot even drink from dawn to dusk, but the way I see it in a less intense way is that sometimes you get so busy that when you leave home in the morning going to school and spending the whole day in the library, you barely have time to eat.

 

international student voice magazine Sarah AlyasiriSarah Naji Alyasiri

ISV Magazine Correspondent, Region 10

Sarah.A@internationalstudentvoice.org

 

 

 

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