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

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

What Happens When Americans Eat What They Tweet

You are what you tweet, according to new maps that show a correlation between obesity and tweeting about high-fat foods 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs