News / USA

Sense of Community Supports US Muslims During Ramadan

Muslim worshipers arrive for midday prayer service at the ADAMS center in Virginia, 13 Sep 2010
Muslim worshipers arrive for midday prayer service at the ADAMS center in Virginia, 13 Sep 2010

Midway through the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims gather at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, or ADAMS Center, mosque to pray.  Located in Reston, Virginia, the center was formed 25 years ago to attend to the needs of the Muslim community. 

Deputy Director Khalid Iqbal says people from 15 different countries, including the United States, participate in the center’s wide range of activities. During this time, ADAMS sees a spike in attendance.

“During the month of Ramadan, we also serve meals every evening for breaking fast for almost four to five hundred people,” Iqbal explains. “I think because of the hardship and tough economic times more and more people are coming for that also.”

A touch of home

Iqbal says there are certainly things that Muslims living in the U.S. miss about celebrating Ramadan in a predominately Muslim country -- such as the call for prayer and the sound of chanting coming from inside the mosque.  But in addition to providing the spirit of Ramadan for Muslims living in the area, ADAMS center also takes the opportunity to get acquainted with non-Muslims.

“Each year, during the opening of Ramadan we have an ‘Iftar,’ which is the opening of the fast, we have [the] FBI for example – they have been coming here every year and hosting an ‘Iftar’ for the whole community,” he says. “Which is a wonderful thing to do, we have that close of a relationship.”

The ADAMS center Deputy Director adds that “Iftars” are also held for the first responders, like police, emergency medics and firemen.   He says it’s an opportunity to share the “blessed month” with non-Muslims in the community.

Peer support helps

Iraqi Wisam Alani, a car salesman, attends Friday prayer service with his wife and nine-year-old daughter. Alani says fasting was hard for him initially, since he spends a lot of time outside in the sun, showing cars to customers. He says what helps is that his boss and some co-workers who are Christian, know a lot about Ramadan and, as such, they are supportive.

Iraqi Wisam Alani, his wife and their nine-year-old daughter attend midday prayer service at the ADAMS center mosque, 13 Aug 2010
Iraqi Wisam Alani, his wife and their nine-year-old daughter attend midday prayer service at the ADAMS center mosque, 13 Aug 2010

“I don’t want to say that I have 100 percent energy, but actually it’s fine because your body gets used to it,” he says.

Alani says what he misses most about celebrating the holy month back home in Iraq is the pervasive experience of Ramadan.

“For example in Iraq, you go outside you can see everybody going to the mosque, you can feel, you can smell Ramadan everywhere – in the markets and all these things,” Alani reminisces. “ Here in the United States, unless you go to the mosque and see the Muslim community nobody knows what is Ramadan.”

Juggling kids and fasting

Sally Hassan with one of her children at the ADAMS center, 13 Sep 2010
Sally Hassan with one of her children at the ADAMS center, 13 Sep 2010

Sally Hassan, 33, a mother of three young children between the ages of two and six years old, says it’s been hard for her to fast.  She practiced ahead of time so her body was used to it.  An Egyptian, she says she comes to the ADAMS center mosque to feel more connected.

“We come to the mosque to feel the Ramadan feeling,” she explains.  Hassan tries to attend service three times a week, but definitely comes on Fridays, the traditional day of prayer in Islam.  “It’s hard to have the kids and pray, so I’m giving the people [fellow worshipers] time to focus on praying.”

From Christian to Muslim

Peruvian Cynthia Dianderas, 22, is a college student and recent convert to Islam. She is one of two people in her entire family who are Muslim. She says she decided to convert for a lot of reasons.

Cynthia Diandares converted to Islam from Christianity and finds ADAMS center activities rewarding during Ramadan
Cynthia Diandares converted to Islam from Christianity and finds ADAMS center activities rewarding during Ramadan

“I found Islam is just my calling… it’s something I wanted to research and find out more about it and once I found out about it, then I felt one,” Dianderas explains.

The young convert says she found fasting rewarding.  As an employee of the ADAMS center, Dianderas says she feels supported in her new-found religious tradition, thanks to the hundreds who attend special daily activities during the holy month.

“I’m here at ADAMS during the day and then at night, everybody’s here – we get 500 people here, we serve food – and we all basically break our fast together, as a group… as a community. And then you pray and then you have dinner.”

Skipping the fast

Pakistani-born artist Belkiss Obadia does not fast during Ramadan
Pakistani-born artist Belkiss Obadia does not fast during Ramadan

Not far away from ADAMS center, Belkiss Obadia, a Muslim living in a Washington, DC suburb, honors the spirit of the holiday in her own personal way: one that does not include fasting.  The Pakistani-born artist is married to a Venezuelan Jew and says when she moved to the United States, she stopped fasting. Obadia says the support and unity she felt during the holy month while living in Lahore, seems practically non-existent here in the U.S. 

“During Ramadan you don’t feel a whiff of it because everybody’s kind-of scattered all over the United States…. unless you’re part of the community, it’s just like any other day," she says. "I miss that oneness.”

Guilt free

Obadia says her definition of Ramadan is very different from the traditional meaning, so she has created her own tradition – a modified observance – that she feels honors the spirit of Ramadan, minus the fast. 

“You’re not fasting because you’re trying to prove to the world that you’re a good person," Obadia says. "This is about you and a cleansing of the soul and your relationship with your God… so nobody sits and judges anyone – in fact that is one of the sins.”

Obadia says she has never been met with disapproval from her more traditional Muslim friends.

The non-faster says when Ramadan ends, she thinks about the progress she’s made so far, toward being a better person -- a journey she considers difficult and a life-long process.

“It’s all about simplicity, giveness, love, cleansing and hoping that this year that will follow after ‘Ramzan’ [Ramadan] even if I’m five percent better at who I am -- then I’ve won you know, in my soul."

Spirit lingers

Rabiah Ahmed, an ethnic Pakistani feels sad when Ramadan is over
Rabiah Ahmed, an ethnic Pakistani feels sad when Ramadan is over

Back at the ADAMS center, Rabiah  Ahmed, a Pakistani, who works for charity organization Islamic Relief, says she feels sad as Ramadan winds down.

“You really feel like a loss when the 30 days are over, when the month of Ramadan is over,” Ahmed says. “And even though Eid is supposed to be a celebration and it’s supposed to be a time to have fun,  part of you is kind of sad you know? That special time is over.”

Elizabeth Monnac's slideshow featuring African and African-American Muslims

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid