The pain of being a refugee is keenly felt during Ramadan, a time when families come together to celebrate the Muslim holy month of fasting. The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has captured their struggles and successes in a moving photo project. They are posting a photo a day during Ramadan with quotes from interviews "to show how individual refugees and displaced experience the month of fasting in exile."
UNHCR elaborated in an email to The Huffington Post:
From a suburban apartment complex outside of Dallas, Texas, to a prison cell in Bangkok, Thailand, to a children’s art class in Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, to the streets of Bamako, Mali, where election ballots have just been cast - those who have lost everything, fleeing war and persecution, give thanks and reflect on their struggles during this holy month. We asked photographers in different parts of the world to capture people’s memories, struggles and dreams. Come on this annual journey.
The faith personified by these people who are often living in conditions of extreme hardship is humbling, as they give thanks for their blessings even as they grieve for the homes and lives they once had.
Though most have lost almost everything, many of the people interviewed still placed an emphasis on giving thanks and helping those less fortunate than themselves, like 85-year-old Afghani refugee Lalako, who tells his 37 grandchildren, "I tell my grandchildren to be kind to people who can’t help themselves and to help the poor. And if you don’t have money to help, then a simple smile to a fellow human being will be counted as a good deed. You are rewarded for every good thing you do."
See all of the photos and stories here:
Ziad, 31, is a father of three, with another child on the way. On the first day of Ramadan, Ziad returns to his family’s caravan after working a shift as a guard in Za’atri refugee camp. “Last Ramadan, I was in prison [in Syria],” he recalls. His wife and children would tell him to come home, but each time he would have to tell them, “I can’t, the door is locked.” He becomes emotional as he remembers those days, when he was unable to buy gifts for his children. Last year in prison; this year a refugee. “It’s like death” he says. “My parents and all my brothers and sisters are still in Syria.” The TV reports on bombing in his home village. It’s a constant internal battle not to pick up everything and return, but the safety of his young family keeps him rooted. He may be far from home, but at least he is with his children this Ramadan.
Although it’s the second day of Ramadan, not everyone is fasting in Jordan’s Za’atri refugee camp. Since she is still a child, Rahma can eat noodles prepared by her Aunt Imani, who has started cooking the evening meal, iftar, which marks the breaking of the daylight fast. The little girl is full of energy and wants to help her aunt. “Was Ramadan better here or in Syria?” Imani asks. “In Syria,” Rahma and her cousins chorus. “We didn’t have to buy fruits and vegetables; we could just go out and get them from the garden,” Rahma explains. Imani says that tempers have been flaring in the camp’s markets over the price of vegetables – everyone complains about not having enough vegetables for Ramadan. “I’m being told by relatives back in Syria that the fruit is falling unpicked,” Imani’s husband, Ihmed adds. Many of Imani’s friends have been crying in recent days, thinking of what they left behind when they fled to Jordan.
As the sun sets over Za’atri in northern Jordan, Syrian refugees pass one of the many makeshift mosques that have mushroomed in the sprawling refugee camp. Many are heading home for iftar, the evening meal during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which began earlier this week. There are about 50 places of worship, set up by the residents, in every corner of Za’atri. One refugee from the town of Dara’a, just across the border, says that what they miss most about observing Ramadan in Syria is the communal spirit. “Everyone cooked and then took it to someone else’s house. Everyone was together.” But the mosques in Za’atri, especially during Ramadan, have become important focal points for rallying a sense of community.
Lalako was a shepherd in his youth, grazing large herds of cattle in the lush mountains of Kunar, Afghanistan. At age 85, he has been a refugee in Pakistan for 33 years. “I vaguely remember those peaceful days like a beautiful dream,” he says. Seven years ago, Lalako became paralyzed from the waist down and now spends most of his time in the shabby, makeshift hut his sons built for him and his wife in I-12 Refugee Settlement in Islamabad. Although he lives with disability, he enjoys Ramadan and spending time with his five children and 37 grandchildren. “During Ramadan, I teach my grandchildren the stories of the prophets of Allah. They sacrificed their lives for the betterment of humankind. I tell my grandchildren to be kind to people who can’t help themselves and to help the poor. And if you don’t have money to help, then a simple smile to a fellow human being will be counted as a good deed. You are rewarded for every good thing you do.”
In peacetime Syria, Ismail studied French. Today, he and his uncle run a small shop selling kitchen goods in Jordan’s Za’atri refugee camp. It’s the fasting month of Ramadan and, as the evening meal approaches, a steady stream of customers flow through the shop buying trays, cooking pots and steel wool for cleaning. Ismail and his uncle buy their supplies from wholesalers outside the camp, who have also sold them some decorations for Ramadan. A year ago, Ismail was in Syria for Ramadan and says that his village would be shelled as they sat down for iftar, the evening meal to break the fast. Asked if they still respected the fast under these conditions, Ismail’s uncle said: “Of course! The war doesn’t even enter into the decision.”
Syrian chef, Galal (centre), prepares the evening iftar meal during Ramadan at the busy Bab Elhara Restaurant in Cairo. “I‘ve worked in several restaurants in Syria and Saudi Arabia and I love cooking,” he reveals, adding that his father cooked for an ambassador in Syria and taught 35-year-old Galal how to cook. “The first dish he taught me to cook is kibbeh [a Levantine dish made from bulgar, minced onions and ground meat], which is important not only during Ramadan – it’s the jewel of any dinner.” But Galal lost his job a year ago when things got worse in Damascus and restaurants began shutting down. He fled to Egypt a month ago with his wife and two children. The thing he misses most about Ramadan in Syria is getting together with his whole family. “I was away from Syria for eight years of my own free will in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but now I'm away forcibly. As soon as things calm down, I will go back home.”
Dalal, 63, thinks of past Ramadans spent in her native Syria as she observes the fasting month this year in Egypt, where she lives in exile. “We had long tables and many different kinds of food,” she recalls. Now, they have to be more economical and she can only make a few dishes. But she said Ramadan last year in Syria was traumatic because of the growing conflict. “As soon as we started eating iftar [the evening meal to break the daytime fast], the shelling and gunfire would begin. It was dreadful. We would have a bite or two and then we would have to scramble to find a place to hide.” This year, Dalal is worried about her grandson, Basil, whom her family fears was detained. They haven’t heard from him in more than a year. “I cry my eyes out all the time,” she sobs.
Dauod, 35, fled Afghanistan with his family when he was two years old. He now runs a small grocery shop in the I-12 refugee settlement in Pakistan. Ramadan is a particularly busy period for him because lots of people want to buy the ice he sells. “I sell more ice during Ramadan because people use it for evening meal drinks, like sherbet and mint shlombay [like a lassi] as well as iced water. People here are extremely poor and so I often give small pieces of ice to children for free. I’m not a rich man and can’t give zakat [alms], so this is my way of helping.” He said that observing Ramadan in the settlement was particularly challenging for smokers and tea lovers, who must wait until sundown to satisfy their craving. In the searing heat, people also come to his shop, where it is a bit cooler because of the ice. “When I need help with the huge blocks of ice, there are many strong hands to help.”
Ahmed, 48, (left) and his family share the Iftar meal during Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt. Ahmed spent 4 months in jail in Homs, Syria before fleeing to Turkey with his wife and 2 children after their home was destroyed. “I feel like I'm in heaven here because I spent the last 3 Ramadan's under gunfire,” he says.
For Jume, Ramadan is a time to remember others. “I pray for all people, people who have died, the living, people who are troubled, people crying, people fighting,” says Jume, a refugee from Myanmar living in the US state of Texas. ”This Ramadan, I pray for the health and future for my kids in America and Thailand.” Despite the emotional hardship of being so far from some of her children and having a daughter who is frequently hospitalized because of a heart condition, Jume says the Islamic fasting month brings her hope. “I’m happy. I fast, I read the Koran and I pray. Happiness is believing in God.”
Mostafa sits on the back of a motorbike clutching a bag of food. A volunteer with the Lebanese humanitarian aid group, Save the Grace, he and his friend zoom around Beirut, collecting food donated by restaurants and bakeries for families who cannot afford much for the evening meal during Ramadan. “I believe our culture needs to change. Too many people throw away food and we want to stop this, especially as now in Lebanon there are many people in need of help. All the youth should get together to help Syrian refugees - and poor Lebanese families, too," says Mostafa.
Afghan refugee weavers at a carpet factory in the Pakistani city of Attock, sit on the dastarkhuwan, the dining mat, for Iftar. The weavers eat a humble meal of dates, fresh fruit, bread and potato curry. After a day of hard work on the carpet looms, one of them remarks, “Nothing is better than breaking the hot summer fast with a bowl of chilled, fresh water.”
Yusuf, 15, arrived in Egypt nine days ago with his parents. Here, he stands outside the Syrian restaurant where he works in Cairo. Although Egypt has its own problems, he feels safer here than in Syria, where his home area was shelled. "Thank God nothing happened to anyone in my family. We decided to go to Damascus, get passports and leave,” he said. But he misses Syria and the big family gatherings at Ramadan. Yusuf says he would get together on a farm for the evening meal, or iftar, with his five brothers and more than 50 other relatives. The women cooked from early morning and the entire family would gather around a large table and eat lamb and meat dishes. “After dinner, three of my uncles would pray at the mosque and everyone else would drink tea and coffee, eat Syrian nuts, talk about work, laugh and smoke cigarettes while listening to [Lebanese singer] Fayrouz and sometimes watching Syrian Ramadan soap operas,” Yusuf said. Reflecting on his days in Cairo, he said: “I'm sad, disappointed. I feel like life is only work and home. I feel that life is meaningless. I don't see my parents or family. I go home at 3am every day and come back at 2pm to work.”
Syrian refugee, Mona, 14, lives with her parents and five younger siblings in Beirut, Lebanon. Mona says that her family decided to flee Syria the day their neighbor was killed in front of their house. She and her extended family of over 40 people now live in 2 makeshift buildings in Beirut. “We were happy in Syria. We didn't have any problems getting food,” her mother says. Her father now struggles to support the family with the money he earns from recycling plastic, cardboard and clothes. The food they eat for iftar comes mostly from charity. After breaking the fast in the evenings, the family gathers around the TV to watch the latest news from back home.
Abdul is an Afghan refugee who works as a carpet weaver in Attock, Pakistan. By day, he weaves carpets in a factory and in the evenings, he prepares exotic Afghan cuisine for the family of the factory owner. “It’s not only the spices that give taste to the food, the passion of the cook adds flavour too. I cook with my heart and soul. According to our belief, a person who serves Iftar or cooks for a fasting person will get greater rewards from God. ”
During Ramadan Somali refugee, Amina , 42, considers herself lucky to be able to cook for others. A mother of 7 and foster mother to 4 more, she came to Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp in 2006 from Mogadishu, Somalia. "In the mornings I go to a class to learn leather working. In the afternoon, I go home and prepare to break the fast . I have a great big pot that we all share from. There are 18 of us. I cook whatever God puts in my pot."
Foddiye (left) and her husband currently host 7 Syrian refugee families rent free on their land in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. She picks vegetables from her garden for Iftar with Abou (right), a Syrian refugee. Abou explains his situation, “It’s so difficult to be far from your family and country during Ramadan. But God willing we came to Lebanon and got to know Foddiye and her family and we are so happy living with them. We live together as one family and eat all of the Ramadan meals together.” Foddiye agrees, “It reminds me of Ramadans of 20 years ago when all of my family would eat Iftar together. This is the most beautiful Ramadan I have spent in 20 years.”
Sula (blue head scarf),12, could easily get away with not fasting during Ramadan, but she and most of her young friends are determined to fast anyway. Today they are painting decorations on the outside walls of the community bathrooms in their district of Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. “Doing this project helps us keep our minds off fasting,” says Sula, a refugee from a village outside of Dara’a, Syria who just finished painting a big, pink jelly fish. She and all the young children are proud to be adding a splash of colour and their own personal touch to their home away from home.
Fardosa, 28, is an Oromo refugee from Ethiopia, currently living in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. “I am a catering student and celebrating Ramadan this month. So far it’s going well, but it’s a challenge to cook during the day when we’re supposed to fast because we normally taste the food as we learn to prepare it. I’ve resisted the temptation so many times, it strengthens my faith. The food we prepare here is special – pizza, njera, mandazi and samosas -not the normal food we have in our homes. Because I can’t taste the food while I’m cooking, I always put some to the side for me and my brother for when we break the fast in the evenings.”
Kahie, 27, a Somali refugee who has lived in Dadaab refugee camp since 1991, washes his feet before praying. “I am lucky to have a job working as a translator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the camp. I usually break my fast by sharing meals with friends and neighbours who don’t have as much as I do. I feel like my Muslim brothers and sisters, and even those that are not Muslims, are closer to me than ever during this month."
For almost six months, this cell in Thailand’s Ayutthaya immigration detention centre has been home to about 20 Rohingya men. They fled communal tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine state earlier this year, enduring 16 days on a boat with little food and water. By the time they landed on the Thai coast, many were starving, dehydrated and sick. Now they spend their days praying, crying, hoping for a future. “Ramadan is a holy and peaceful month, but last year we couldn’t pray because of the fighting,” lamented Kamal, 22, whose brother was killed in last year’s violence in Sittwe, Myanmar. “Although we are now inside a cell, we have freedom to pray.” Kamal is thankful for the understanding shown by immigration detention centre staff and the local Muslim community, which has been providing food for iftar. For Eid he has one simple wish: “To go to a place where we can move freely, work and survive.”
"In Timbuktu, we had everything, fish from the river, food from the garden and free spices. Most importantly, though, we had peace,” says internally displaced Malian, Sada, 50. “Here in Bamako we have nothing.” Sada and 12 of her family members came to Bamako 8 months ago, after living under Islamist rule in Timbuktu for almost a year. “I sold all my jewelry so I could pay to transport my family here. Everything I have left now goes to rent. We rely on others for food. To other Muslims I say, put your faith in the almighty. Whether you are poor, or away from home, or hungry, you will never be poor in faith!”
Nigerian refugee, Akeem, 33, has lost a lot in life. He lost his father to violence in Nigeria and afterwards, he says, his mother died from a broken heart. Sadly his wife was killed by a landmine, leaving their twin daughters to grow up without a mother. Violence forced him to flee his homeland for Costa Rica in December 2011. Akeem, who works as a waiter at a Chinese restaurant in San José, says he is focusing on forgiveness this Ramadan. His rigorous work schedule does not allow him to observe Ramadan as he would like to, but he says that the temptation he faces working in a restaurant all day is another test that makes him a spiritually stronger person.
In Mindanao in the southern Philippines, internally displaced sisters, Rowena, 14, Miriam, 8, and Laika, 7, have been forcibly displaced countless times during their young lives. Most recently the family was forced to flee during Ramadan. Growing up in a conflict prone area is never easy, especially for young girls who must help their father earn a living. “We can’t just wait for food assistance, and anyway it’s never enough. We need to earn income so we fish. Some of what we catch is for the family to eat and the rest is sold at the market.” Says Rowena. “We're helping our parents, but the river is also our playground,” adds Laika.
Yahya arranges his freshly made qatayef, sweet pancakes traditionally served during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan in the Middle East. He was a baker back in Syria and now that Ramadan has arrived in Jordan’s Za'atri refugee camp, he’s putting his skills to use. With drops of sweat rolling off the end of his nose, he leans over the hotplate and pours batter mix from a pitcher onto the griddle in small even circles. He only cooks one side and watches carefully until it has cooked. Next he flips the pancakes and leaves them to cool before adding sweet fillings. When folded, they are ready to eat. “I put some rose water in the batter,” he says. Despite being far from his war-torn home, this is one tradition that makes Ramadan in a foreign country more bearable for Yahya.
Displaced Malian, Salimato, 51, and her family, live in an abandoned grade school in Mali’s capital, Bamako. They have lived in three homes in three months, and after Ramadan they will have to find yet another. “The landlord has let us live here during the month of fasting, but after that, I don't know where we'll go.” Originally from Gao, she fled 1200 kilometers east to Bamako, in April 2011, as separatist rebels descended upon the city. “I have some family here in Bamako, but they can't afford to support me. It’s challenged my faith. I pray to the Almighty for his mercy, and I ask that all Muslims support each other. I thank every person who has spent even a single franc to support us. They are in my prayers.”
Reports: Shawwal crescent has been seen in Saudi Arabia. #Eid— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) Just now
#Ramadan's purposes are many; 1 is definitely to instill empathy & solidarity, a personal awareness of how less fortunate live. #Islam— Kamal Fizazi (@kamalfizazi) 7 August 2013
The Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia will meet on Tuesday evening to hear from people who may have sighted the moon, an announcement that has startled many scholars worldwide as it would mean that this year's Ramadan would have lasted only 28 days instead of the requisite 29 or 30 days.
The statement by the court implied that there had been an error with the July 10th start date of this year's Ramadan, and that the holy month of fasting should have started on July 9th instead. Saudi newspapers on Monday quoted a statement from the Supreme Court that encouraged members of the public to sight the Eid moon on Tuesday night.
Religious scholars reacted to the news with surprise and some disagreement, as a Tuesday evening moon-sighting would indicate a mistake in the start date of Ramadan.
Have you mailed your Eid cards yet? If you haven't yet, you can use the new 2013 'Eid Forever' stamp that was just released by the U.S. Post Office.
What do you think?
Ramadan can be a physically as well as spiritually demanding time for Muslims -- even for people that aren't blind.
However, their disability is not stopping the 30 blind Muslim residents of the Yogyakarta Disability Rehabilitation Centre in Indonesia, who come together to read the Quran using in Braille during the holy month.
On the last Friday prayer of this year's Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, Palestinians struggled to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The worshippers passed through multiple checkpoints and scaled walls with ladders in order to pray at one of Islam's most holy sites.
IN CASE OF FIRE -- LIFT COVER #30days #RamadanReflection #Quran http://t.co/LHHwehhtZp— HiMY SYeD (@HiMYSYeD) 5 August 2013
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- On a weekday during Ramadan, soldiers usher reporters to a window looking in on Echo Block where about 15 men are at afternoon prayer. The prisoners stand hip to hip in two rows, kneel then rise in the only glimpse of the captives the reporters will get in a weeklong visit.
As the military tells it, an angry hunger strike is cooling, and Islam’s holy month is a new beginning. But this guarded glance at the 12th Ramadan for most Guantánamo detainees shows no fellowship, no festive meal in the blocks.
And it is the complete opposite of a generous, confident Ramadan visit of a year ago. Then, the prison gave the Miami Herald night and day access to prayer and meals at different times in different cellblocks, to look and listen from unseen vantage points while commanders unhurriedly stood inside prison corridors chatting with confidence that they were doing the right thing.
Last year, the Herald got to record a prisoner under lockdown berating his guards before settling down to call his fellow captives to prayer through his steel cell door.
This year, it is the job of the Pentagon salaried cultural advisor called Zak to tell their story, from behind a desk at the command headquarters.
In the places where the reporters can’t look or listen, says Zak, himself a Muslim, the detainees are “praying, reading the Quran, meditating, being on their own.”
Lockdown has ended for dozens who are allowed to live communally now, if not as liberally as before. “They watch TV,” he says, and a recent report on Al-Jazeera about plans to hold parole-style reviews for indefinite detainees went over well.
“Ramadan is just a time when detainees spend worshipping,” he adds. “It gives the guards a break from putting up with the detainees.”
It is the first Ramadan at Guantánamo for most U.S. soldiers here and, coming after months of lockdown and hunger striking, the prisoners’ most austere in years.Midnight meals come in Styrofoam boxes slid through a slot in each captive’s cell door. Even those the military says are eating and behaving are locked alone inside a cell for six hours, then let out in time for dawn prayers.
Home stretch. #Ramadan— Amina Khan (@aminawrite) 5 August 2013
The stars, cold and distant, twinkle in the sky, seeming oblivious to the anticipated daybreak. The fireflies play hide and seek in the dark backyard in Maine as I sit outside, waiting for the morning pray and start of a day of fasting as part of Ramadan, the Muslim’s holy month of fasting, when the faithful abstain from food and drink, from dawn to dusk.Reza Jalali, an educator and writer, living in Maine, is the author of award-winning children’s book, Moon Watchers.
Most Muslims believe angels are on a mission during Ramadan nights; the sacred time to reflect, recite the Holy Book, ask for forgiveness, and seek closeness to the Creator, to pay a visit and to grant wishes. I’m still hopeful my sky gazing, watching the fireflies play, and reminiscing about long-gone Ramadan of my childhood years, spent in Iran where I was born, would count as acts of piety. As I imagine millions of Muslims living in the four corners of the world could be watching the same sky and the same stars while getting ready to begin a new day of fasting, I feel homesick.
During my childhood, Ramadan was a family time with sumptuous evening meals, Iftar, made more special after a day-long of fasting, and watching the elders cooking extra food to feed the poor. Ramadan is not about personal sacrifice and punishing yourself but to find empathy for those going without food, involuntarily all year long, my father would remind us. Once I left Iran to attend a university in India, I discovered the ancient wisdom behind rituals such as Ramadan: more than charity, it was important to personally experience what a poor neighbor or a hungry person went through, on a daily basis.
Earlier, I had woken up from a dreamless sleep and tiptoed in the dark house, going from room to room to check on our children, pretending to be a thief intent in witnessing and savoring life’s simple joy. I had walked quietly, mindful of the sleeping household, making my way to the kitchen to warm up the pre-down meal, suhur. With little appetite I finished the rice dish and drank water and some tea. The tea would suppress the thirst during the day, Mother used to say as she’d have us drink the steamy glasses of tea minutes before the radio announcer would broadcast the start of the fasting.
Years before radios arrived, my mother, the story teller, would have us believe, it was the loud canon explosions in larger cities, or groups of men walking around the neighborhood hitting the walls of the houses with sticks, who informed the faithful to stop eating and drinking in anticipation of a new day of fasting.
Outside, I watch the sky change colors as I think of my extended family members, the younger generation living outside of Iran, spread over the west, like seeds of a plant, and the older ones living in houses empty of children’s laughter. The ghosts of the past crowd the backyard, pleading for my attention. Somewhere an owl hoots. Just as a cool breeze picks up the scent of flowers, still invisible in the dark garden, to carry it to me, I close my eyes and recite the familiar words of prayer for those no longer living. This seems to calms the audience-seeking ghosts.
I hear a noise and open my eyes to see the outlines of a skinny deer going through the spilled leftovers by the backyard’s compost bin. Another survivor. You made it through past November, the month of hunting in Maine, alive. Next hunting season is months away. You and I are two survivors. I’ve survived my November; periods of political unrest, a revolution, imprisonment, and forced exile and displacement. I go inside and grab an apple to offer to the uninvited guest humbly, the way a devout Hindu woman would at a temple in South India.
The call to morning prayer, coming via my laptop, travelling through the space like a flying angel, moving over sleeping cities, calm lakes, vigilant mountains and foamy oceans, makes me go inside to wash. I stand, facing Mecca, Muslims’ spiritual magnet, and start to utter the ancient verses, God is Great! In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful… I fall on my knees before prostrating to bring my forehead to the ground, the way my ancestors have done for centuries, in total humility and submission, How perfect is my Lord, the Most High…
We’re in the last 10 days of Ramadan Alhamdulillah. Pedal to the metal inshaAllah! http://t.co/tW7v1vpq2s— Abdul Nasir Jangda (@AbdulNasirJ) 2 August 2013
PHOTO: Muslims gather during the holy month of Ramadan in the old quarters of Delhi, India (REUTERS/Ahmad Masood) http://t.co/jpXMFgmGHB— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) 1 August 2013
At this point, Muslims all over the world have officially began Ramadan—yes, even the ones in Pakistan and India who figured waiting a few more days sounded fun. That’s over 1.5 billion men, women, and children participating in a global fast, going without food and water from the crack of dawn to the setting of the sun for a period of roughly 30 days.Continue reading Hammad Moses Khan's reflection here
The daytime routine is pretty well documented. No food. No drink. No small-snacks-while-no-one-is-looking. Those things are pretty much the regular — that’s what you’ll find on any Ramadan pamphlet or what you’ll get during your awkward coworker’s 45 second explanation of why she isn’t eating lunch today. But what about the other stuff? What about the stuff we don’t tell anyone about? What about the hours we spend praying at community mosques every night of Ramadan? What about the Qurans we carry in our pockets so that we can read a few more verses about charity and patience during the day? What about the the challenges of reflecting more deeply and giving more generously during this month?
We don’t like to talk about those things. And you know why? Because it’s not easy. I can tell you that Ramadan is about not eating or drinking, because I’m not eating or drinking. But to tell you that Ramadan is about building myself in my morals, my characters, and my spirituality — that’s hard. That requires me to admit that those things are more important than what does or doesn’t go into my mouth. That requires me to look inward and ask some difficult questions of myself. And, for many of us, we’re not sure if we want to.
In the Islamic tradition, we have a rich history of scholarship and writing. Much of the life of Muhammad (SWT) has been documented in short, anecdotal narratives as passed on by his companions. Over generations these anecdotes and stories have been studied, authenticated, and recorded in what are called books of hadith. Although many scholars have organized these stories and sayings into various small, easily accessible books, there is one saying that seems to appear in an overwhelming majority of texts. Looking back to the 13th century, we find a collection of 40 hadith as cataloged by a scholar by the name of al-Nawawi. This popular collection begins with one of the most well known and most often cited sayings of the Prophet Muhammad:
“ACTIONS ARE JUDGED BY THEIR INTENTIONS.”And as we begin Ramadan, that is a message that truly rings home. What we do, what we don’t do, whatever it is that we achieve during these coming weeks — it will all be based on the intentions with which we begin this month. It will be based on why we choose to fast. It will be based on the tough questions we choose to ask of ourselves as we begin this month of introspection and reflection. Most definitely, it will be based on what we want to change about ourselves and how willing we are to do it.
But at what age should children start? Usually they begin at puberty, but some Muslim parents have been encouraging even younger children to fast.
BBC Africa's Zuhura Yunus met up with an East African family in London to find out about a 10-year-old girl's experience. Watch the video here
Traffic Accidents Decrease in First Half of Ramadan http://t.co/7GADt0DCvd— MOI_UAE (@AbuDhabiPolice) 29 July 2013
Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the third year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion.
"So I hear you know a lot of women," says the young man. What a great reputation to have and a great way to start a phone call. This will definitely not be fun.
"I am looking to get married and was hoping you can help recommend someone to me." I've actually never spoken to this young man before and don't even know his last name. But he has called so the conversation continues.
"I am not really a matchmaker. Can you tell me what you're looking for?"
"I want to marry a nice, Muslim girl." Of course.
"Could you elaborate a little more?"
"Someone who will be nice to my parents."
"That's helpful. Because I was going to introduce you to someone who would be a jerk to your parents."
Ramadan is meant to make us think of those who are suffering, irrespective of where they come from. http://t.co/1zJInLHUyp #photos— Oxfam International (@Oxfam) 30 July 2013
After Ramadan, I hope I'll be able to jump out of my bed for Fajr the same way I jumped out of bed for Suhoor. #RamadanReflection— Yasmine Itani (@yasmineit) 29 July 201
Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the third year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion.
At times we don't realize how hard our hearts have become. The gradual process of a subtle bitterness enveloping them coupled with an absence of regular and consistent times for self-reflection and self-care lends us towards a lot of heaviness on our insides. The pursuit of complacency becomes our goal rather than the pursuit of contentment and we sacrifice things that would bring us everlasting comfort in pursuit of those things that simply give us the facade of comfort.
Even if you are not able to perform itikaf this year, take the time to reflect on your inside. Acknowledging the presence of a certain hardness is the first step in eliminating it.
Dhu-nun al Misri, a 9th century Egyptian Muslim scholar known for his teachings around the development of the soul and the purification of the heart, gives a profound advice to the seeker of internal peace on how to deal with the hardening of the heart."Idha aradta an tadhaba kasaawatu qalbik, fa adimis siyaam.
If you desire that hardness of your heart leaves you, then endure fasting."
The U.S. government has been hosting iftar dinners to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan for over a decade, with individual events held by the White House, the State Department, and other government agencies.
However, the official dinners are now coming under fire from some Muslims, who see these attempts at inclusion as hypocritical, as the U.S. government continues to engage in policies reviled by the American Muslim community at large, namely the drone war, the force-feeding and imprisonment of people at Guantanamo Bay, and NSA domestic surveillance.By calling for a boycott of the iftars, these Muslims simply polarize the country into two groups, Muslims vs. Americans, which erases much of the progress that other activists have made to show that Muslims are Americans. The otherizing of Muslims happened widely after 9/11, with many American Muslims experiencing discrimination at home, but conditions have vastly improved since then, largely thanks to activists who fought to reclaim their identity as Americans as well as Muslims.
(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama saluted Muslim Americans on Thursday for their contributions in helping build the nation as business entrepreneurs, technology innovators and pioneers in medicine.
Obama spoke at a White House dinner he hosted to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The meal, or iftar, breaks the day of fasting when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.
Obama said Ramadan is “a time of reflection, a chance to demonstrate ones devotion to God through prayer and through fasting, but it’s also a time for family and friends to come together.”
He said it is a White House tradition to celebrate sacred days of various faiths, adding that these occasions celebrate diversity that defines the country and reaffirms the freedom to worship.
Pakistan TV show dubbed 'Islamic Price is Right' gives away orphaned babies http://t.co/WSoWGWSYJk— The Independent (@Independent) 25 July 2013
A Ramadan guide for teachers!
Millions of Muslims around the world have begun a month-long fast during daylight hours for Ramadan. Here are some resources to help you explore the festival in class.
It's the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and that means the start of Ramadan – this year in July for the first time since 1980 – and most of the UK's three million Muslims, including older children, will be fasting from dawn to sundown and focusing on being better Muslims and people.
Ramadan is a great opportunity to find out more about Islam in RE lessons and beyond and also a chance for everyone to practice a little introspection. Fasting is a powerful way to empathise with those in need and give thanks for our food, and some non-Muslim students may like to practice their own controlled fasts during the Ramadan period in support of their Muslim friends.The following news stories, multimedia, teaching resources and recommended websites will help students understand the meaning behind Ramadan and how this important festival works.