Supporting Our Friends & Neighbors This Ramadan

Marhaba! May 6 marks the beginning of Ramadan, a time of holy celebration and one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a time of reflection, self-accountability, charity, prayer, and fasting to commemorate when Mohammed received the first revelations of the Quran. 

During the ninth month of the Muslim year, it is forbidden to eat, drink, argue, lie, smoke, gossip and to indulge in other worldly desires from dawn until dusk. Instead, Muslims learn the virtues of patience, modesty and spirituality through fasting, praying, learning and helping the poor. Fasting Muslims eat healthy meals before dawn (suhoor) and after dusk (iftar) to provide the energy they need throughout the day. The celebration of Eid-al-Fitr, “Festival of Breaking the Fast” marks the end of Ramadan and an opportunity for friends and neighbors to come together over prayer, food, gift exchanging, lavish clothing and fun events.

Texas ranks first in the nation for the number of Muslim populations, according to the Texas Almanac. As the Muslim population in the United States continues to grow, it’s important now more than ever to support all of our Islamic brothers and sisters, especially during this holy month.

We’ve asked our own East Communities staff member Leslie Jordan, an American Muslim convert, about her faith and to provide insights about how non-Muslim allies can support and learn more about Ramadan and the faith in general. Read her insights below.

As an American Muslim convert, I am asked questions from well-intentioned friends every year what is the meaning of Ramadan. It has taken me years of my own practice to really understand that what they are asking me is how can they support me without offense. I appreciate this so much. Having been on both sides of the glass, I humbly offer this advice:

  • Realize that like most religious observances, Ramadan does include fasting from food and water, but this is not the point. The fasting of Ramadan includes abstinence from all physical pleasures that distract one from developing a relationship with God (i.e. smoking or intimacy with your spouse is included). Some Muslims cover up or wear a hijab during this time when they may not ordinarily, particularly in Western countries. 
  • Observance of Ramadan is personal and some people are not fasting for a variety of reasons. Questioning them about why one may be seen eating or drinking is not polite. Age, illness and traveling can be reasons one is not observing a fast but it cannot be assumed that one is not observing the holy month. Ramadan is about being introspective as well. 
  • Ramadan, and the sacrifice of fasting for those participating, is a celebration. The simplest way to show support is to participate in any interfaith iftars or dinners or Eid parties. Understanding and kindness are the best support any time of the year!

 

If you would like to learn more about Ramadan, check out these resources:

Celebrate Community and Connection in Austin during Ramadan

Islamic Center of Greater Austin

North Austin Muslim Community Center

Muslim Space

 

Nicola Stewart is the Community Engagement Coordinator at the YMCA of Austin Program Services branch. Nicola loves connecting people to the Y’s cause and learning about other people and cultures

All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@austinymca.org

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