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Celebrating Ramadan in the United States

15 Apr 2021 - Category: Blog /
Ramadan in the U.S.

Ramadan is a time of great importance for Muslim families and communities around the world. The Islamic celebration is about fasting, prayer and acts of charity that help Muslims connect with Allah.

At Small World, we celebrate Ramadan every year. We know that many Muslim immigrants will be communicating with family and friends during this period.

There are also plenty of people that may not know much about Ramadan and want to learn. Muslims account for just over 1% of the US population and thousands will be observing Ramadan in states across the country.

In this blog we’ll give a brief overview of what Ramadan is, when it happens, how you can celebrate it, and what it means for the Muslim community. We also want to explore what it’s like celebrating Ramadan in the US. We’ll do this by answering a few of the common questions about Ramadan.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a whole month of fasting. Not all Muslims approach Ramadan in the same way but generally it involves abstaining from things that are impure for the mind and body between sunrise and sunset. This includes food, drink and impure thoughts.

If you live in the US and know Muslims that are going to observe Ramadan this year you can say Ramadan Mubarak (“Happy Ramadan) to them as a show of support. You may also hear other phrases and have questions, like what does “Ramadan Kareem” mean? It means “have a generous Ramadan”, and is also something you can say to Muslims observing Ramadan.

When is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is based around the lunar cycle the exact dates of Ramadan change by the same number of days every year.

This year Ramadan in the United States will begin in the evening of Monday, April 12th

and end in the evening of Wednesday, May 12th.

What is the history of Ramadan and why do Muslims observe it?

Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Islamic culture. It is a time for spiritual reflection and marks when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

When did Ramadan start in history? Well, “Ramadan was made obligatory (wajib) during the month of Sha'ban (8th Month), in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Makkah to Medina (624 AD).”(BBC) Muslims use this month to improve their understanding of the teachings of Islam.

Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?

Ramadan is about devotion to one’s faith and Allah. Fasting or “Sawm” is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

It is considered one of the highest forms of worship because abstaining from earthly pleasures is regarded as an act of submission to Allah. Fasting is a way to atone for the sins and mistakes you’ve committed during the year.

During Ramadan, to accommodate fasting, many offices and schools in Muslim-majority countries shut early. In the US you may also notice Muslim friends and colleagues observe different habits and adopt different behaviours during Ramadan.

The 30 day period of fasting can be both physically and mentally tough. During COVID-19 the difficulties associated with fasting during Ramadan are amplified as Muslims, like everyone else, can’t meet and worship in the same way. Muslims must make allowances as the days start early and they do not have the same sustenance to keep them going throughout the day.

While fasting is a priority not all Muslims are able, or expected, to fast. Exceptions are granted to children, pregnant women, people with diabetes, anyone with an illness and people who are travelling. Moreover, this year the U.S. Muslim groups have also had to state publicly that Ramadan fasting doesn't forbid vaccination.

What else happens during Ramadan?

The first meal is typically eaten around 4.30am and fasting begins when the sun rises. This is also when Fajr, the first prayer of the day, is offered. The second and third prayers are offered during early and late afternoon. At this stage of the day one may begin to feel the pangs of hunger. And it is at this stage that Muslims should remember the reasons for fasting.

Sunset is when the fast can be broken, often with a meal of dates as recommended by the Prophet Muhammed. Breaking the fast is a communal affair known as an “iftar party”. After this the fourth daily prayer is offered and then you are permitted to have dinner.

In non-pandemic times, Muslims will traditionally go to the mosque after dinner to offer the final prayer of the day: Isha. The final act of the day for some Muslims is the special voluntary prayer called the Taraweeh, which is offered by the congregation who recite the Qur’an. These rituals happen every day for the duration of Ramadan.

How can I celebrate Ramadan safely if Covid-19 restrictions are in place?

The World Health Organization published guidance for the safe Ramadan practices in the context of Covid-19. While you may not be able to travel between states to congregate with family and observe Ramadan together there is still plenty you can do.

During Ramadan last year Imam Khalid Latif, a chaplain at New York University’s Islamic Center, held online lectures and prayers to ensure that Muslims in New York could still feel connected to their community.

You too can use online platforms like Zoom to reach your family and friends. There are several other things you may want to do such as:

  • Planning your iftar menus in advance to make sure you can keep your family safe by making fewer trips to stores
  • Livestream sermons or ‘taraweeh’ or access pre-recorded services. Arrange virtual iftars with extended family and those in your wider Muslim community and use these platforms to listen to the maghrib adhan or break your fasts together.

While Ramadan may be different this year there are many ways that Muslims are making sure they stay connected.

What happens at the end of Ramadan?

The end of Ramadan is a particularly significant time for Muslims. During the final ten days of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the Laylat Al Qadr, which is the holiest night of the year. It commemorates the night that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

At this time Zakat donations, a form of obligatory charity, are made. ‘Zakat’ means ‘to cleanse’ and by making donations Muslims believe they and their wealth are purified and blessed.

The end of Ramadan is also when Eid al-Fitr - a time of feasting and gifts - is celebrated. On Eid-al-Fitr, the appropriate greeting is “Eid Mubarak”.

What gifts can I give people to celebrate Eid al-Fitr?

While you might not be able to meet in person you can still celebrate Eid al-Fitr with your family and friends by sending gifts. Here are some ideas to:

  • Buy a bespoke Eid present from My Islamic Decor or Noorah’s Gifts
  • Send them a luxury Halal hamper
  • Treat them to beautiful Eid floral gifts
  • Or, if you’re not sure what to buy you can send money. It’s an easy and convenient option that enables your Muslim family and friends to buy things they want or need for themselves.

Support your Muslim family and friends

Now you know the history to why Muslims celebrate Ramadan and why and how they do it you can support them in their spiritual journey. Whether you have family or friends in Nigeria, Senegal or Pakistan celebrating Ramadan you will probably want to support them this year in any way you can.

You might not be able to travel to celebrate with your family back home, but your money can make the trip. Support your loved ones with a Ramadan gift by sending money to them.

We have a gift for you this Ramadan as well.

During Ramadan, if you’re a new customer, you get your two first transfers fee free.

And if you’re a returning customer, you get one fee free transfer.

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