Around half of the refugees being resettled to America are Muslim. So it’s safe to say that you have most likely come into contact with or met a Muslim here in the US. Through this internship I have had the pleasure of meeting Huda, a refugee from Iraq and employee of Melt Goods. I also have a close friend, Amani, who I have had the pleasure of being friends with for the past four years. Both being Muslim women, I came across a lot of information that I had not been exposed to in the past.
Working alongside and growing friendships with Huda and Amani introduced me to the holiday known as Ramadan. Some readers may be thinking “Rama-what?” In short, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar in which strict fasting occurs from sunrise to sunset. However, that definition can only tell so much. Those who experience it can only tell the feelings, experiences, and spiritual gravity Ramadan holds. Because of this, we asked a couple of questions to Huda and Amani.
Huda- Melt Goods Employee
- What is your definition of Ramadan?
Question: Does everyone fast?Answer: I love Ramadan because I feel like I have a better relationship with my God. It makes me feel comforted. During Ramadan, I think of the less fortunate and about how blessed my family and I are. Every one sitting and eating together is a moment and feeling I cannot describe.
Answer: No, it begins when maturity occurs. When you are able to think and make decisions for yourself is when fasting should begin. Kids are not required to, but some such as my own enjoy fasting. Being able to control your desires is the point of fasting. Sick people and those who are traveling are not required to fast as well.
What are some things that are banned during Ramadan?Answer: You can’t drink water, tea, chew gum, or even swallow mucous. You cant even judge others, or talk badly about another person because of what they are wearing or doing. All of these will break your fast- it is haram. Haram is the opposite of halal, which means good.
- Is it hard to be around others who are not fasting?
Answer: No, I’m not really affected by it. I have grown to be pretty strong in my ability to control my hunger, so others do not sway me. I may get thirsty, but not hungry.
Amani- Close Friend
- What is Ramadan like for a young adult such as yourself?
Answer: Ramadan for me is almost like a refresh button. Its an opportunity for me to realign myself with God and to remind myself that all the negative influences around me, especially at this age, are only distractions from my true path in life. Essentially it’s an extreme version of New Years: a month where I can start anew & re-prioritize myself, creating resolutions on how to better myself till the next Ramadan if I’m meant to see another one. It’s a time for me to humble myself and to focus on being the best Muslim I can be through prayer, charity/service and being a well rounded, kind individual.
- What age did you start participating, and for you remember what your first Ramadan was like?
Answer: I started fasting in Ramadan in 3rd grade, so around 8-9 years old. My dad encouraged me & my siblings to do it by paying us $5 a day if we were able to successfully fast from sun up to sundown without a single drop of water or crumb of food. I was determined to get PAID! The first day was the hardest and most humbling day of my elementary life. Everyone at school was wondering why I was sitting at the cafeteria table with no food and I was struggling, starving with so much food around me! I really thought I was going to break, but I kept thinking about that big $5 bill and pushed on. After the weirdly long day at school ended, I sat at around the house WAITING for the sun to set. I never realized how long a day was! When I took my first sip of water for the day, nothing could compare to that refreshing feeling. After fasting my first few days and praying with my family night after night, I felt different. I felt oddly clean & couldn’t really understand that feeling at that age other then that I knew I felt good. I fell in love with Ramadan because of that feeling and later grew to appreciate it for so much more and never stopped loving it since.
- What do you gain personally from going through the process?
Answer: The biggest thing I gain in this month is learning and re-enforcing self-restraint which is primarily the purpose of Ramadan. Being able to not only restrain from food or water, but to successfully restrain myself from bad habits or anything that distracts me from being a good Muslim or strengthening my connection with God. I learn how to discipline myself and control my environment for the sake of following the path my religion has put forth for me for my sake. This self-restraint is something we all, Muslims & non-Muslims alike, struggle with so gaining that and being able to strengthen it every Ramadan is a blessing.
- What advice would you give to those who are not aware of Ramadan, or those who may not be open to accepting/learning more about it?
Answer: For those who may not understand Ramadan or don’t care to, all I have to say is this: Ramadan is a time to purify ones heart, soul & mind. A time to help others, especially the poor, through charity & service. A time to get closer to God and closer to yourself. It is a time to reflect and is also an opportunity given to better one’s self on all aspects of life. Ramadan is a holy month that we Muslims cherish and want to share with others so that they can truly understand Islam & reap the many benefits that it brings. Simply fast one week or even a day with a Muslim and you’ll begin to understand what words simply can’t explain. Trust me when I say that it will definitely be worth your while.