ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, begins this year at sundown,
September 1st. The observance marks the time 1400 years ago when Muslims
believe the words of their holy book, the Koran, were revealed to the prophet
Mohammed. Ramadan in America, as it is
elsewhere in the world, is a time of fasting, prayer and reflection. Each year during this holy month, Muslims of
diverse backgrounds and national origins come together to worship and celebrate
their faith. For many American Muslims, Ramadan also provides an opportunity to
share the culture and traditions of their various homelands with their
non-Muslim American friends.
are, by various estimates, between six million and eight million Muslims living
in the United States. Most are immigrants from around the world. Many are
native-born Americans who have converted to Islam.
followers of the faith everywhere, American Muslims observe Ramadan with
traditional rituals. Families shop at
Halal meat stores, prepare Iftar meals to break their dawn-to-sundown fasts
with family and friends. They pray together. Some Muslim Americans shop for
Ramadan sweets at specialty food stores.
it is the same. But back home we have
more people around us," says Amina Tambouch, an American Muslim from
Senegal. "Here we have to go to work (during) Ramadan and leave late, so
it is hard to get together."
says from time to time she does get together with friends during Ramadan
"Every one will cook some food and bring it. We pray together, we talk
about the Muslim religion, and we teach each other." At work she and her Muslim colleagues will
pray together at lunchtime.
Ramadan, Islamic centers and mosques across the country are crowded with Muslim
Americans breaking their fasts, praying and reading the Koran. Imam Abdulla
Khouj, director of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., says the diversity
in the U.S. Muslim population gives Ramadan in America a special flavor.
see the flags here, people from everywhere in the world setting on one table on
the floor, join together to break the fast, to exchange talk and to feel that
they have accomplished something that day, which is fasting to Allah
Khouj believes that recent Ramadan greetings by American presidents have helped
to raise Americans' awareness of Islam, and to promote the idea that Islam is a
peaceful religion. He says inviting
non-Muslims to the nightly Iftar dinners is also an occasion to educate them
about the Islamic faith. "We have
a lot of groups coming to the center, especially in the month of Ramadan,"
he says, "and some of them come and break the fast with us."
Sisi, an American Muslim from Guinea, says that during Ramadan she often talks
to her non-Muslim friends about Islam.
"I believe strongly that Muslim religion is the religion to bring
people together, so Ramadan is a good occasion to talk about that, to bring all
the people together and to bring peace."
in the United States face special challenges in celebrating the holy month.
They have to adjust Ramadan observances to the beat of American life. That's
especially hard for Muslim students, says Palestinian-American Mohamed Tafesh.
"It is more challenging because they go to school and they have to do all
of the activities, sport activities in high school, and they go to lunch where
every body is eating and they are fasting."
as Muslim-Americans adapt their Ramadan rituals to the secular rhythms of
American life, more non-Muslim Americans are becoming aware of Ramadan, and its
important place among the unique traditions of Islam.