Ramadan: A special time of year for your Muslim neighbors
By Tahra Goraya
Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims. Milton Muslims along with most of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world will be celebrating Ramadan starting April 12th through May 12th. Every year, Muslims look forward to this important month to develop a closer relationship with God, remember those who are less fortunate, exercise patience, gratitude, and practice charitable giving. There is a good chance you might encounter someone —a coworker, a neighbor, a teacher, a friend — who will be fasting and celebrating. Muslims eagerly await the month of Ramadan every year because it is time for both a spiritual “reboot” and a time of celebration to be spent with loved ones and community.
What is Ramadan?
Muslims believe that Islam’s sacred text – the Quran – was revealed to mankind through Prophet Muhammad in Ramadan. Muslims fast each day from dawn until dusk. Specifically, that means abstaining from drinking, eating, smoking, intimacy, and immoral acts during the daylight hours each day. Doing any of those things “invalidates” the fast for the day, and one simply starts over the next day. Missed fasts can be made up throughout the year. Muslims wake up early to eat Suhoor – a pre-dawn meal, fast during the day, and then eat Iftar to break their fast at sunset.
Why do Muslims fast?
Much like the Judaic and Christian fasting traditions, Muslims fast as an act of worship. Ramadan offers an opportunity to contemplate one’s relationship with God, to connect with humanity, practice patience, curb anger, forgive, break bad habits, increase in giving, offer extra prayers, and engage in the intense study of the Quran. Fasting is one of the five pillars/duties of Islam, along with the (1) testimony of faith, (2) prayer, (3) charitable giving, and (4) making a pilgrimage to Mecca. All Muslims are required to take part every year, though there are special exemptions for those who are ill, pregnant, nursing, menstruating, traveling, young children and the elderly.
What are the Traditions?
Cultural traditions during Ramadan vary across countries. All around the world, one observes the Islamic values of generosity, sharing, and community. It is common for mosques to host large iftars to break-fast, especially for the poor and needy regardless of their faiths. Children are encouraged to have ‘small fasts’ so they too feel like participants, to decorate the home, to perform good deeds, and to offer prayers.
Eid al Fitr or Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, is a three-day celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. Muslims gather at the mosque or at the park for a communal morning prayer and wish each other ‘Eid Mubarak/Eid Kareem/Happy Eid’. It is common to celebrate with friends and relatives and participate in toy drives and food drives. Eid will take place on or around May 13th.
How will Ramadan be celebrated this year?
The COVID-19 global pandemic certainly changed the way Muslims experienced Ramadan locally and globally. Although mosques will not be open full time again this year, they have become increasingly resourceful for families in need, holding services with limited numbers, and conducting online services. The spirit and intent of Ramadan remains strong and vibrant.
How Can I Participate?
- Join Milton Muslim Neighbors, Milton Interfaith Clergy Association and Milton Public Schools in a food drive April 26-May 10 to be distributed by Interfaith Social Services.
- Send your neighbor a Ramadan or Eid greeting – they will appreciate the thought.
- Sponsor an Iftar meal for fasting frontline workers.
- If you are planning to invite your Muslim friend to dinner, consider inviting them after the sun sets.
About the Author:
Tahra Goraya is the founder of Milton Muslim Neighbors(MMN). She is the first Muslim American hijab-wearing woman to be elected in Milton. She is currently a Town Meeting Member in Precinct 6, a member of Milton Interfaith Clergy Association (MICA), Advisory Board Member to Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston, and President of Goraya Consulting. Feel free to contact her at [email protected].