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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid