Huffpost Religion

Ramadan 2012: A HuffPost Community Observation Of The Islamic Month Of Fasting (LIVEBLOG)

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Ramadan is a month of fasting observed by Muslims, and is considered to be one of the holiest times of the year. It was established as a Holy Month for Muslims after the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 CE on the occasion known as Laylat al-Qadr, frequently translated as "the Night of Power. The sacred time of year is upon us, and starting today HuffPost Religion will update this page daily with prayers, reflections, verses from the Qur'an, poetry, songs and blogs, to help you growth spiritually during this time, and highlight the diversity of the Muslim community.

HuffPost Religion invites you to share your reflections and experience during Ramadan with us. Did you have a spiritual revelation during Ramadan? Are you a Muslim who is fasting for the first time? Are you a non-Muslim who is fasting Ramadan? Were you tempted to steal a bite or drink some water during your fast? These, and more, we would love to highlight on this blog.

If you are interested in contributing, please send an email to religion@huffingtonpost.com, or tweet us @huffpostrelig. We look forward to hearing from you, and Ramadan Mubarak to all!

UPDATE: Submissions should ideally be personal stories about observing Ramadan and between 150-300 words in length.

UPDATE 2: Thank you for sharing your honest, introspective Ramadan stories and reflections with us. We are accepting your personal stories and reflections on Eid al-Fitr. Submissions should be between 150-300 words in length, and will be accepted till Tuesday, the 21st of Aug, 2012.

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Ramadan has ended. When the sun rises, I will awkwardly look upon the spread of baked goods covering every flat surface in my kitchen and sneak a bite. For a moment I’ll feel guilty, as a matter of fact…I’ll probably feel guilty eating in the daylight hours for these few days of Eid celebration before those remnants of my Ramadan rhythm have passed.

This Ramadan was different for me in a lot of ways, as opposed to spending as many iftars as I could with my friends and keeping busy through the day with trips to different cities and hard hikes…I spent most (if not all) of my time obsessively job-hunting to no avail and trying to be as productive as possible. I started that well before Ramadan. Daunted by the responses I received, my house became a tense place to be.A few nights before Ramadan, just to get away… I took to the local hookah lounge, Wicked Mirage. My venture there wasn’t for the questionably permissible tobacco, but for what Hemmingway described as “a clean, well-lighted place.”

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-- Abdul Rehaman-Bassa (@ARBassa)

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Afghan vendors living in India play a traditional game with coloured boiled eggs to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in Kolkata on August 21, 2012.

Credit: AFP PHOTO by Dibyangshu Sarkar

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@ miss_habibti : If you stopped something in Ramadan because you believe it’s haraam, why would you continue it once Ramadan is over?

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I grew up surrounded by Muslim culture. It was subtle –- the red carpets on which my mother prayed, the early mornings to the mosque only on Eid, my childhood memories of my mother reciting the Quran when she was in the shower -– but it was enough to influence me as a person.

Despite my Muslim influence, fasting during Ramadan was never a requirement for me. My mother was diabetic, my father irreligious; neither of them fasted. When I did participate in Ramadan, it had little to do with religion and much more to do with being a person. I came to know Ramadan as a simple act of empathy -– familiarizing myself with what it felt like when I didn’t have everything I ever wanted.

No, I have never experienced a spiritual awakening during fasting, and no, I have never heard the word of God. But as an atheist, I can still recognize the power of patience, humility and empathy. I return to a primitive state, when all I can think about is food, food, food. And my greatest achievement during those days is when I learn to live my life not without those thoughts –- despite them. Through that achievement, I felt calmer and, ultimately, more confident. I believe not in God, but the power of the mind. My greatest accomplishments have always been mental. If I could go through high-school soccer conditioning without water, then hell, I could do anything.

I continue to strive to be a better person, and through Ramadan, I have always found both strength and compassion. I am a woman who doesn’t believe in God but still believes in Ramadan, a small and temporary sacrifice that I participate in just to feel just a little more human, when I forget what it’s like to be good.

-- Hayat Norimine

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I woke up with what felt like a pile of rocks over my head. My mom abruptly came into my room, asking for the hair dryer. My eyes were still closed as she went on and on about me needing to get up for Eid prayer.

I had done a pub-crawl the day before with a group of friends and was feeling extremely hung over. Of course she didn’t and won’t ever need to know this.

I dragged myself out of bed and stared at myself shamefully in the mirror. I didn’t fast a single day. I couldn’t even keep up with my own version of Ramadan, which consisted of not drinking for the whole month.

I greeted my father at breakfast with a hug and an Eid Mubarak. He was happy to see I was going to prayer. I’m surprised he didn’t say anything patronizing since I didn’t fast. He’s a devout Muslim and heart patient. And he fasted at least twice a week.

We piled into his car. My dad was repeating a prayer in Arabic every 30 seconds. I tried to drown his voice by chugging three bottles of water. Finally, we arrived at the convention center in downtown Dallas, and I was feeling a little clear headed.

This is probably one of the best experiences of people watching. You’ll see the Algerian family with six little boys, all wearing the same outfit and hats. Or the Pakistani family with their lavish outfits.

My mom and I parted from my brother and father and made our way to the prayer hall. We shuffled around and found a nice corner next to two elderly Turkish women.

Within 30 minutes, the prayer hall fell silent as the Imam started the prayer. Standing shoulder to shoulder with my “sisters,” I clasped my hands to my chest and closed my eyes. I felt safe. I opened my eyes. It was incredible to see 15,000 people standing together, in the name of God. A wonderful sensation came about me, and I hope to reconnect with Islam.

-- Sahar Mehdi

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Palestinians enjoy a ride in an amusement park during the second day of Eid al-Fitr in the West Bank city of Jenin, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012.

Credit: AP Photo by Bernat Armangue

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My heart is racing. I can hear it beat, fast, strong, and I can almost feel the rush of blood roaring past my ears. My mind goes blank, and I forget my surroundings. I can’t remember what I had for iftar. The sound of a baby’s wails fades out as the imam’s voice replaces it, filling every inch of my mind, each ayah echoing in the silence of the masjid.

The shuffles, the snuffles, my neighbor’s perfume, the masjid’s whitewashed walls, I no longer hear, or smell, or see. My senses are busy. After all, I am in the race of my life, a race for which the prize is beyond any worldly pleasure, as is worth more than my soul. I am in the race for jannah, for heaven.

The rules of this race are quite simple, and everybody is allowed to join. You do not need special skills, or physical strength, or mental intelligence, only belief in One God, Allah, and his messenger, the Prophet (peace be upon him). There are many winners, and there are losers. And once a year, we are blessed with Ramadan, the holy month given us to help in this race.

Allahu Akbar

I bow in submission to my Creator. A feeling of euphoria fills my chest.

Subhan Rabi Ala’lah, subhan rabi ala’la, subhan rabi ala’la, I silently chant.

Ya rab (Oh God), give me al-jannah. Ya rab put me in the highest levels of heaven. Ya rab, cure the sickness in the world!

Allahu Akbar

It was in Ramadan, that beautiful month, that taraweeh took place. There were 11 successive rak’at in all, with the final one ending in dua’ah. And it was in taraweeh that I found myself lost in a strong feeling of faith. Taraweeh is an important step in the race toward jannah, and I would not miss those 45 minutes.

Allahu Akbar

I raised my hands toward the sky.

Allahuma ishfee mardhana. Allahuma, heal our sick, and help them in their difficult times, grant them patience and strength, grant their loved ones patience.

Aameen! There were other voices now, that I could hear, other voices; male and female, young and old, praying along with the imam, answering with a resounding aameen that filled the mosque with unity, and togetherness. We were one in that moment, sharing pains, sharing joys, and molding together to form one voice that shook the windows with its power. Oh the beauty of Islam! What mattered whether I was rich or poor, white, black, brown, red, yellow, or any other color? I was a Muslim, and that is what mattered.

Allahuma qawee ilmuslemeena fe kul makan. Allah protect Muslims everywhere, give them strength in their faith. Allahuma qina min ‘athab ilnar, Allahuma qina min ‘athab ilnar, Allahuma save us from the flames of Hell. Allahuma dakhilna iljannah, Allahuma give us Heaven, we ask no higher!

Aameen!

Allahuma taqabal siyamana wa qiyamana wa salatina wa dua’ainah! Ya Rab! Accept our fasting and our prayers, and answer our dua’ah, for You are the Most Magnificent, the Most Merciful; there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the messenger of Allah.

Allahu Akbar.

Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatu Allah. Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatu Allah.

As I finish, my heart slows down. The whitewashed walls come back to focus, and I begin to feel the pain in my legs; I’ve been standing for a while now. My mind begins to sharpen and, wait. I forgot to bring my mobile phone! Oh, no, oh no. What will I do without it? And will someone please give that baby a bottle? It’s been wailing since for ever, where’s its mother?! The woman on my right is sniffling, poor thing, she has a cold. Weird, though. I didn’t hear her during prayer. Or the baby, come to think of it. Probably the dua’ moved both of them.

It does that to people.

As these trivial thoughts race through my mind, my senses dragged cruelly back to earth, I smiled. What wouldn’t I give to have that peace wash over me again, for the imam’s harmonious voice wash over me again!

Well, I suppose there’ll always be tomorrow, and the day after. And next year’s Ramadan, inshAllah. And the Ramadan after that! I love being a Muslim.

Now, where did I put my shoes again?

-- Johara Almogbel

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I spent the entire night at the masjid -- praying, dhikr, aunties talking about daal (lentils), the whole shebang. The only other sister there had told me about the roof and the spectacular view it came with. For someone who is scared of heights, I love rooftops. The feeling of fear and awe that comes with them is exhilarating.

I've grown accustomed to making dhikr after my salaah while lying on my back and looking up at the ceiling. It allows me to slow down and simply breathe while taking in His mercy. There's something about the ceiling that numbs my senses until I no longer become distracted by them. At that point, it's just me and Him. After returning from the rooftop to the musulla, I prayed for a bit, made dhikr in my usual way, and then I realized that I could take a piece of tarp up to the roof and be with Him there. This was the best decision I've made thus far. Laying on that piece of tarp, looking up at the sky I could see the stars -- a sight I am rarely blessed with in this amazing city. There's something to be said about the sky -- it's beautiful during the day, but it's breathtaking at night. There are many ahadith that speak of the answering of du'as at this time but I never truly understood it until now. Just looking at the sky and realizing how vast it is and how tiny I am but knowing that even then, even then, He knew what was in my heart and had managed to give me everything I had never even asked for. I can't speak to the infiniteness of His glory because "infinite" doesn't even begin to truly justify Him. At that moment in ultimate surrender, a shooting star appeared in the sky and vanished just as quickly. The tears did not stop flowing because they could not. I did not know why but I knew that I had to keep running after Him.

-- Sujana Khan

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@ ammarmali : If you find yourself feeling freed from the burdens of Ramadan, are you any better than satan who was recently released from his shackles?

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This Eid was like any other day for me. I was born into a Muslim family in Nigeria and I have fasted during Ramadan for as long as I can remember. This year was different because I did not fast. The excitement that usually precedes Ramadan was missing this year and I had no motivation to fast. I felt l was losing my religion. It made me unhappy.

My imam once told me Islam is the religion of peace. Looking back at the last two years proved otherwise. The political unrest in Muslim countries contradict that. Hollywood movies contradict that. News reports contradict that. I watched on Bloomberg TV a Hindu man talk about his community. He made a statement about they [Hindus] were tolerant and lived in peace with Muslims in their community. If Islam is really the religion of peace, why can't everyone claims to find for the cause of Islam put down their guns? Why was it "breaking news" that Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president, attended Eid prayers at a Damascus mosque?

This Ramadan I woke up expecting nothing more than an update of the death toll in Syria. For the same reason, when I woke up on the day of Eid, I look forward to the English Premier League. The Chelsea FC win put a smile on my face. It was the only place I witnessed peace amidst differences. Not among my Muslim brothers, but on the football pitch.

-- Adeshina 'Tunde, Nigeria

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I think of the month of Ramadan as a cycle in returning to Wholeness in our inner journey. The long span of our lives is the macro-narrative that frames whether we infuse the world with beauty or steal from it and generate ugliness. In this month, we are broken from the comforts of food and our regular routines. My life is rocked and changes for a period of 30 days, which taken together can help me practice for a lifetime.

I think of Prophet Musa's plea to God, "Open my heart, ease my task." He recognized his need to reach out to the Divine for help. In this month, I was reduced to leaning on God in ways I might not often recognize I need to, when the trappings of material life obscure my vision of what is truly important.

I enter Eid with the realization of my brokenness and my vulnerability laid bare.

I start the evening of Eid on my knees. Because I know I am in need of spiritual sustenance I can begin to cleave my heart to my Creator. In this weakness I find strength. In this moment of celebration I am indeed rejoicing in the illumination present in this moment of recognizing my fallibility, which is in fact my humanity.

-- Najeeba Syeed-Miller (@NajeebaSyeed)

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Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayer at Shahi Masjid at the famous Taj Mahal in Agra, India on Aug. 20, 2012.

Credit: AP Photo by Pawan Sharma

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@ zaynmalik : Eid Mubarak, thankyou to everyone who wished me a happy eid. Love you all :) x

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Worshippers offer the Eid al-Fitr prayer at the Martim Moniz Square in Lisbon, Portugal on Aug. 19, 2012.

Credit: AP Photo by Francisco Seco

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This past week when thinking about what I would do for my first Eid, I started to feel a bit disconnected again. Eid is a time for community, family traditions, and celebration with loved ones. I will spend it alone.

But I remembered when I started Ramadan I had the same thought. While I did spend much of it on my own, I was not really alone. Some of the time was spent in a normal day-to-day manner at work. I was also incredibly fortunate to spend some of my time in Dubai where I met wonderful people with whom I hope to develop lasting friendships. And friends checked in on me on nearly a daily basis and stayed up late with me via text messaging on a few occasions.

I admit I also spent a fair amount of time connected to the world via the internet: perusing blogs, relishing stories of Ramadan experiences around the world, staying caught up on the achievements of Muslim athletes at the Olympics, and reading the news from Burma, Syria, Egypt, the US, etc.

All of this has made me feel inspired, disappointed, energized, horrified, elated and a little bit scared.

We all know that the depiction of Islam in the mainstream media is imbalanced and overwhelmingly negative, and others have written far more eloquently on this topic than I could -- but the question that keeps running through my head is how -- in this environment -- do I explain to non-Muslim friends and family that I chose to follow Islam because at its core it is about peace and benevolence? And what is my responsibility in all that is happening in the world? Ramadan and Eid are times for charity, which is hugely important, but it is enough?

So, as I think about how I will celebrate Eid, first I will be grateful as I realize I will spend it in a lovely apartment, in a safe neighborhood, and with plenty of food and clean water to drink. Alhamdulilah! I am blessed.

Next I will begin to establish my own Eid traditions. Remembrance of my sister and other loved ones who have passed, perhaps a pancake breakfast followed by a long walk by the river, and calls to friends and family (even if they do not realize they are celebrating Eid with me).

And finally, I will pray for guidance for how best to represent and communicate the beauty of Islam to my non-Muslim friends and family during the next year, and for guidance on how I can be a positive force in the community.

-- Julie

Originally published here.

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One of the most important lessons Ramadan teaches us is poverty. By voluntarily fasting, we experience first hand the involuntary hunger through which millions worldwide suffer every day. While we are blessed to enjoy a hearty meal, buy new clothes, and exchange gifts -- for millions, that involuntary poverty continues even after Ramadan ends.

But we can choose to change this. We can ensure everyone in our family celebrates as we celebrate. We can ensure our neighbor is not struggling while we are feasting. We can ensure the homeless man down the street, too, can bask in a hearty meal. This Eid, make the voluntary choice to delay the involuntary suffering of those who have no choice -- even if but for a day. This Eid, make it a true Eid -- an Eid for everyone.

-- Qasim Rashid (@MuslimIQ)

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Ramadan is always an interesting month for me. As a young child I thought fasting during Ramadan was easy as the days were short and we had school to keep us occupied. The older I got I began to realize the importance of family, charity and prayer.

Then my mum died and everything changed. Ramadan become such a sad month, I had to pretend to my family that I was strong and was managing to focus on the important things but selfishly, all I wanted to was my mum. I remember the first Eid without her and we took our usual holiday to celebrate with the family in England. My cousins made me laugh, we stayed up all night talking, getting our clothes ready and putting on mendhi (hand painting).

My uncle woke all of us up very early and started getting in the queue for the bathroom! The phone rang downstairs and I heard my aunt answer and in my head I thought, "That's my mum calling to say Eid Mubarak!" Then it hit me like a tons of bricks on my chest. The amount of sadness bubbling up in my gut was insane. How can a happy occasion be so sad?

Years have passed and Ramadan is still a sad month for me. But also one of relief. Relief that my mother is not in pain, relief that she is in a better place, relief because my prayers during this month will benefit her.

-- Saima Bashir, Scotland

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I am trying on my Eid dress, putting on my henna, and starting to cook for Eid. Ramadan 2012 is already over! Somehow one whole month of fasting just flew by and it was absolutely easy. I remember before Ramadan even started, I was scared about how I was going to even keep my fast throughout the long, hot, summer days, but now it’s just gone. As I look back on my Ramadan month I feel very satisfied with myself because I feel that I accomplished a lot for this holy month. My family and I finished reciting the entire Quran, which was probably one of the greatest feelings I had throughout the entire month of Ramadan. Instead of wasting time and listening to music when I was fasting, I did a lot of community service and helped my mom with cooking and cleaning. I feel that I controlled my anger more this month and whenever my parents and I had disagreements I was able to keep my mouth shut from saying anything I would regret. I was also very critical of myself this holy month. I always evaluated whatever I did; whether it was the right thing to do or whether it would be sinful. I stayed very productive this month. For example, instead of sitting around and watching television, I would research and interpret verses from the Quran or read Islamic literature. So, thinking about all of this makes me feel very happy inside because I don’t think I have ever been this productive and successful with Ramadan ever before. This was a wonderful Ramadan and I am very happy with what I did with my daily fasts. I cannot wait until next year!

-- Farjana Alam

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Saudi Arabian men hug each other after offering prayers outside the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque on Aug. 19, 2012. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Credit: AP Photo by Hassan Ammar

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If you have the opportunity to bring just a little bit more happiness into someone’s life, use it. If you have the chance to share a small act of kindness, act on it. If you see something you can do to make the world a better place, do it. Thirty days after I first posted it, this Ramadan brings me back to the same hadith I began it with:

“The best actions are those which are small and consistent.” -- Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

Hold on to that. Let it be what keeps you going. Be kind. Be generous. And most importantly, be real. Be realistic in your expectations and consistent in your actions. Do those things that you know are right and avoid those things that you know are wrong. Learn how to love those around you. Learn how to appreciate the reality that we all need each other, that we all must depend on each other for love and support -- because none of us can do this alone. And as you do that, let the lessons you learned during this Ramadan become the experiences that carry you to the next Ramadan, the experiences that carry us all to the next Ramadan.

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-- Hammad Moses Khan (@moses9i6)

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I live in India. India is an all-encompassing democracy, and I love living in a democratic country. However, since we are both a developing and a non-Muslim nation, there are a lot of handicaps for Muslims here. It's very difficult to find a mosque for women to pray, or prayer rooms in any public places.

I work in the IT (information technology) field and love it. However, my work hours aren't the normal 9-to-5. I go to work at 2 p.m. and return home between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. The disadvantage (if I can I call it one) is that I could never go to a mosque for taraweeh (nightly congregational prayers). Not on a working day, at least. So I usually prayed taraweeh along in the office, or at home with my husband on the days he can't go to a mosque. Sometimes I wondered if that made my taraweeh less special.

Though I pray with my husband almost everyday, the last few days of Ramadan were unique. My husband, who is almost my favorite Imam, said we should pray for a period of time for every ruku' (a position in Islamic ritual prayer established by putting one's hands in one's knees) and every sujud (prostration) during taraweeh. I was excited about this as I love saying my own prayers during salah, (formal worship) as opposed to after it.

As I started praying during salah, a lot of prayers surfaced, which were otherwise forgotten in life’s immediacy. I remembered many of my beloved people. I gave gratitude for the many blessings in my life, which I might otherwise take for granted. I prayed for my best friend who is having a slightly difficult pregnancy, prayed for my in-laws who are enjoying their umrah (pilgrimage) in this blessed time. I gave thanks for my amazing husband, my parents who are healthy, my beautiful home, and the help that I have around my home. I gave thanks for my high-paying and satisfying job. Alhamdullilah.

InshaAllah, this is a practice I am going to carry forward even after Ramadan. Longer duas (supplications) and prayers during the salah.

-- Nasia Ullas (@mrsmumshad), India

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Eid Mubarak! At HuffPost Religion we love this Eid song by Sami Yusuf. What are your favorite Eid songs? Share with us in the comments section, or email us at religion@huffingtonpost.com.

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@ LupeFiasco :

Eid Mubarak from Los Angeles...

Inshallah Allah SWT has accepted our fasts and prayers this Ramadan!

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A girl gets her hands painted with henna in preparation for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr festival, in Karachi, Pakistan on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012.

Credit: AP Photo by Fareed Khan

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Racism hurts both the doer and the receiver. When we judge someone, when we enter a situation where we hold preconceived notions about someone due to their appearance, we hurt ourselves as much as we hurt them. For a month now, we’ve stood side by side by people of all races, of all colors. At our masjids, the diversity that can be seen is matched by no other place of worship. Nations upon nations are represented on any given night. I’ve broken fasts with Irish-Muslims and Mexican-Muslims. I’ve prayed behind Russian and African Muslims. I’ve eaten American food, Pakistani food, Arab food, and even McDonalds throughout Ramadan. That’s an experience so many of us have shared. Our Ramadan’s have been diverse. They’ve be integrative. They’ve been unifying.

So as we move out of this blessed month, hold onto that sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. Realize that race is something we need to work on. Realize that race becomes irrelevant when we are all dropping our heads in prostration to same Creator. It’s easy to stand together and be united when we feel attacks from the bigots and the Islamophobes, but it’s more difficult when the attacks come from the inside. Racism is an internal problem. And it’s one we need to deal with.

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-- Hammad Moses Khan (@moses9i6)

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For the past two years, I have observed the traditional fast during Ramadan. I was born to a Puerto Rican father and an Iranian mother, but was raised exclusively in the Catholic faith, enrolled in the same Roman Catholic school my father attended and attended Church most Sundays. When I arrived at college as a freshman, I decided that I wanted to learn more about my mother’s heritage by taking a Persian course.

Having taken three years of Persian, it became clear that I needed an immersion experience if I really wanted to become fluent. Predictably, it is strictly forbidden to use my university’s or the government’s money to attend a language program in Iran. So, I settled for Tajikistan. Admittedly, I was skeptical about living with a family in Central Asia, especially since the program partially overlapped with Ramadan.

Initially, I fasted out of respect for my family. I did not want to gorge myself or ask them to cook for me while they were abstaining from food and water for 18 hours a day. My host family insisted it wasn’t necessary, but I thought it would be an interesting experience. I was surprised how quickly my body adapted to the challenge.

When sunset was close, we would all sit around the table with neighbors and friends, waiting for the precise second indicated on our calendars. When the moment came, my family would pray while I served everyone a healthy portion.

Now that I am fasting in a non-Muslim country for the first time, the experience has changed. I usually read a book while my co-workers enjoy their lunch breaks. I try and avoid dinner plans with friends anytime before eight.

Unexpectedly, I have found all my friends to be vocal and energetic with their support.

“Just a couple more hours.”

“Good for you, Dario.”

“I’ll cook you a big dinner as soon as you’re done.”

Inevitably, someone offers me a drink or something to eat while the sun is still out. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m fasting.”

“Wow I apologize. Did I just make it harder? I’m sorry.”

I do not take offense, but seeing the looks of worry on people’s faces has made my conception of Ramadan change. What was before a communal celebration of restraint and discipline now became a strange lesson in performative empathy. By voluntarily grappling with the denial of a basic human need, we learn what it feels like to inhabit the role of the disadvantages, of the conflicted. Ramadan shows us how to be both the empathizer and the empathized, teaching us the intricacies of both conducts.

I do not know if Ramadan will have a lasting effect on my personality or my choices, but I do know that for every time I felt lonely during the last 30 days, there was someone willing to pick me up, to wait a couple hours to have dinner, to cook me a big dinner as soon as Ramadan is over.

-- Jose Dario Martinez

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A dear friend from London suggested I visit the Sheikh Qasimi Mosque in Sharjah because the Qiyam ul-layl (night worship) is led by Sheikh Salah Bukhatir, a famous reciter. It is easy to see why he was so highly recommended. He conveys the Quranic music with such power and beauty, and the occasion his voice cracks from the weight of the words he is reciting, the congregation, too, feels the emotional impact and many break down into uncontrollable sobs. How wondrous it is to see some of the people who don't understand a word of Arabic but who feel and know that their Lord is speaking to them and that alone is enough to evoke a deep emotional response!

On this particular night, the 27th of Ramadan, people congregated for Qiyam ul-Layl as it is considered most likely to be Laylat ul-Qadr (the night of power). The Saud al-Qasimi mosque is perhaps the 6th Largest in Sharjah. Despite the fact that there were many other larger mosques performing Qiyam ul-layl, most turned up here. The mosque had been full since Maghrib (around 7 p.m.), I know people from Dubai who had come much earlier. The parking lot (where we were) and the roads as far back and as far forward I could see were packed with people. The two women prayer spaces had to be extended with a long curtain. All the roads were blocked, we had to park 20 minutes away from the mosque.

It was incredible. From 12:30 a.m. to 3 a.m., I along with other men and women were calling on God in earnest to forgive us. It was already an extremely powerful night as I watched all those people braving the 35 degree (C) sweltering summer Sharjah night. The turnout of at least 25,000 people was surprisingly not the most incredible event of the night. Shaikh Bukhatir's hour long dua (supplication) was the most powerful I have ever heard. He called on the divine names and attributes, he called on God to forgive our sins, he asked for people's suffering around the world to be alleviated, and each supplication was accompanied with a roar of Ameen from the congregation. His repetitive call to God, “O Allah You are the One who pardons greatly, and loves to pardon, so pardon me,” was somewhat of a climax as at this point everybody broke down. With each repetition he seemed to say it with increased vigor and earnestness. And each time the response would be a louder Ameen.

We all had our individual stories, our failures as worshipers, our sins, but as a congregation, that night was a night of spiritual highs. It seems the very joy of worshiping is the striving for the moment that we feel our nothingness and God's power, all-encompassing. The tears of the congregation were residues from hearts that were cleansing itself of its toxins by the purifiers of self-awareness and remembrance of God. The calm just after the prayers is describable only as peace. A real meaningful peace. Sadly, that momentous peace is momentary as we go back to the chaos of our lives.

-- Samir Abdalla, UAE

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My fellow Americans: I was not born here, but migrated from Pakistan as a young child. My family and I chose to become Americans, and much of that had to do with the religious freedom our US Constitution guarantees. In Pakistan, religious freedom is only guaranteed if you're the "right kind" of Muslim. If, however, you are an atheist, Christian, Hindu, Shia Muslim, or Ahmadi Muslim -- chances are you will face active discrimination, persecution, or even murder. Public apathy and a total disregard for the Constitution has hastened Pakistan's tailspin.

Hence my plea to you. For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of peace, prayer, service, and reflection. But over the previous two weeks, nearly a dozen acts of anti-Muslim violence have seized our nation. Mosques have been burned, shot at, and fire bombed. Homes have been attacked -- even a Muslim school suffered an acid bomb attack.

But the attacks notwithstanding, a deeper issue exists; this anti-Muslim violence is being perceived as an American-Muslim problem -- not an American problem. My plea to you is to reflect that regardless of religious or racial differences -- we are all Americans under the same Constitution. As such, let us unite to condemn these acts of terrorism on our fellow Americans as if they were attacks on each of us as individuals. Apathy, instead, pushes us down the perilous path that Pakistan has chosen. In these final few days of Ramadan, my plea, my prayer for my fellow Americans is to join us in peace, prayer, service, reflection—and to choose to actively reject all forms of terrorism.

-- Qasim Rashid (@MuslimIQ)

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As this month of Ramadan draws to end, the moment is bitter sweet. Muslims will be celebrating Eid ul-Fitr, a holiday that takes place on the first day of Shawwal, the month after Ramadan, either Sunday or Monday. The different days are based off of different methods in determining the start and end of months on the Islamic calendar based off of the cycle of the moon, but each opinion has its evidence and would be considered valid. The holiday definitely brings celebration with it, but it also brings a realization that Ramadan is over. Many people think that it is taxing on Muslims to fast for these 30 days, but the reality is that for most of us its a time that is immensely enjoyable and beneficial, and always hard to let go of.

For all of us who observed this month of Ramadan, I pray that we carry forth the lessons learned within it throughout each tomorrow that we are blessed to be in this world. Remember that knowledge necessitates action, and what we have learned and gained consciousness of this past month should find manifestation in deed and decision beyond the month's ending.

I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to follow along with my posts this past month. God-willing they were of some benefit to each of you; writing them were definitely of benefit to me, alhamdulillah and I'll definitely keep doing it for myself. I would recommend to all of you to keep a journal as well. It can be a very beneficial experience for a variety of reasons. You just have to be honest and open with your words. Don't write what you think you are supposed to write, but write what actually exists within you. It doesn't have to be seen by any eyes other than your own. It will also give you a means to look back at how far you have come, how you may have taken steps back, or perhaps haven't changed at all. It's helpful to see the way you speak to yourself, how you perceive the world and what kind of things are on your mind. A year from now, I can look back at these posts and see if the year in between brought any change to my life, or if I just stayed the same.

That is, if I am blessed to see Ramadan again next year.

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-- Khalid Latif (@KLatif)

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Waking up at 5 a.m. has its benefits. Really. The quiet time and space allows a certain level of awareness that is not afforded to us once the sun has brightened the sky. It is almost as if the darkness inspires us to search for things, to give in to our heightened sense of awareness and to be in tune with the Divine.

On the 26th day of Ramadan, I had suhoor (pre-dawn meal to start fasting) in my dim kitchen in Florida, and in between flights on my way to New York City found myself searching for what I'd have for iftar (meal to break fast). I didn't have much time to get to the next gate, so I asked a nearby desk attendant where the closest chapel was. I needed somewhere to pray. "By the time you make it to the chapel, you'll miss your boarding call," he said. The decision was made. I'd have to pray out in the open, at the airport. As a solo traveler and with all the recent events in the news of violence against Muslims and whose who look like Muslims, I did feel a tinge of fear and apprehension. What if someone yells a slur at me while I'm praying? What if people are staring at me? How will I concentrate? And wait ... which way is North?!

After landing in New York City and collecting my bags, I made my downtown to a qiyam, a gathering of worshipers who pray together through the night until the beginning of the next day's fast. I entered the lounge where the qiyam was held with a bulky bag and suitcase. As I walked into the lounge tip-toeing through a puddle of sandals, heels, flip flops, dress shoes and sneakers, I felt the weight of the day.

After I settled down, I turned to look at the instructions. The plan was to begin by praying Salat ul-Tasbeeh (prayer of invocation). This is my absolute favorite prayer. Reciting this prayer is akin to watching fireworks with a great soundtrack. It is even more powerful in a room full of voices raised in praise. We prayed together and ate together and as the night inched on, it settled in. I was finally here.

As we took our last sips of water and the call to prayer opened our fast for the next day, I couldn't help but be excited in knowing that I would find tonight the same people I started my fast with. We would complete another day of Ramadan strengthened and nourished by each other, our faith and identity.

-- Amber E. Hampton

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