Tasmiha Khan
June 05, 2019 1:15 pm
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Ramadan, the most important month in the Islamic calendar, was observed from May 5th to June 3rd of this year. The month focuses on spiritual and personal growth, so worshippers fast and refrain from engaging in certain pleasures. The end of Ramadan is marked by a celebration known as Eid al-Fitr, or Eid, which means the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. As Eid has begun, HG contributor Tasmiha Khan—member of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) Alumni Network—discusses why the month-long observance is important for all people to understand, especially with President Trump’s hateful rhetoric informing politics.

In case you missed it, Muslims all over the world, including in the United States, have been observing a special month, Ramadan. This month could not have come at a better time, given the caustic political climate and rampant Islamophobia in out society. Our president is constantly attacking Representative Ilhan Omar and characterizing her as dangerous, anti-American, and anti-Semitic. In doing so, he revives his familiar hateful refrain against Muslims—further dividing the country as death threats rise against Ilhan, leading Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call for extra security for Ilhan’s safety. Many Muslim Americans—including me—feel cornered. But despite my concerns, Ramadan lets me feel more hopeful.

Ramadan is a time of solace for the Muslim community and beyond. This month allows me to feel renewed. Eating and drinking become more meaningful because I am fasting. Something as mundane as sleeping becomes special. I change my intention, making the simple act of rest an act of worship so I can restore my energy each day to do good. It is a month that everyone that can teach everyone important values—regardless of one’s religious affiliation. And it is a month that non-Muslims can learn more about.

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There is a common misconception that all Muslims are Arabs and all Arabs are Muslims—which is not the case. Muslims are the most racially and ethnically diverse people in the United States and come from all backgrounds, proving that people of all perspectives can learn from this month. The diversity can especially be seen in our cuisine. There are different levels of observance among worshippers, but the fast begins before sunrise and ends at sunset. In both the pre-dawn meal, the suhur, and the breaking of the fast, the iftar, an elaborate feast may be prepared—from Bengali aaloo bhortha (flavored mashed potatoes) to Arabi waraq dawali (succulent stuffed grape leaves).

When you celebrate Ramadan in America, you can travel the world without leaving the country. You can share these meals with friends and family, learning more about each other as you eat. While you’ll experience pangs of hunger and thirst throughout the day because of the fast, you’ll develop a new sense of gratitude and empathy for the less fortunate who may not know where their next meal is coming from. As a person fasts, they can understand the meaning of self-control and learn to savor meals that they are privileged to enjoy.

“Self-control is something all members of our society should exhibit—and religion doesn’t have anything to do with it. Ramadan is really a time that helps me to exercise this and it is a blessing,” Durdana Rahman, a Muslim mother of three from Warren, Michigan tells HelloGiggles.

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Besides developing gratitude, Ramadan is also a time for reflection and unification–and I would ask my non-Muslim neighbors to join in the celebrations.

There is a special sense of community present during Ramadan. Through the acts of sharing meals or observing prayers, we’re reminded to not take human relationships for granted. I often try to “fast” from social media as well during the month, as it is a time for deep introspection I reflect on my relationship with myself and with those around me. It is no surprise that young Americans are some of the most “connected” people because of social media, yet feel the loneliest. It is during Ramadan, when I lessen distractions and focus on what’s in front of me, that I can establish new connections and renew old ones. Nothing beats the in-person meetings over meals and observances, especially when you’re used to solely connecting with someone superficially through a screen. We get a chance to appreciate all the friendships around us.

“I think we live in a world of instant gratification and are so connected with everything and everyone. I’d say one thing others can’t see from outside is that [Ramadan] can teach steadfastness, taking a step back disconnecting, and appreciating everything you have,” says Mutasim Chowdhury, a 20-year-old Muslim.

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One does not need to be Muslim to appreciate and learn from Ramadan. I encourage all Americans to take the good they can from this special month. From being more united, to appreciating diversity, to building communities. Trump’s attacks are not only hurting us, but weakening the country as whole. In order to see progress, we must support each other as we speak out against bigotry in all shapes and forms. As the saying goes, united we stand and divided we fall. So as Ramadan ends and we move into Eid, let us use this time as a bonding and empowering experience, and unite for progress.

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