Ramadan in a Foreign Land
This article was written by Dr. Sedique Popal, Executive Director of the Noor Islamic and Cultural Community Center (NICCC) in Concord, CA and a member of our 2022 Learning Collaborative Program. Dr. Popal is a Professor of English and Applied Linguistics as well as the TESOL Program Coordinator at the University of San Francisco.
Muslims who live in non-Muslim countries find it difficult to observe Ramadan in a foreign land. I vividly remember how difficult it was for me and my family to perform all the necessary rituals of Ramadan when we first came to California. There were neither Afghan mosques nor a coherent Afghan community to provide support and facilitate the rituals of Ramadan. Finding Halal meat was another issue for us during this holy month.
Now that we have sizable Afghan and Muslim communities in different states, I believe the resettlement agencies and sponsor circles should introduce the newly arrived Afghan refugees to the Afghan and Muslim communities so that they can benefit from their services and communion.
The holy month of Ramada (fasting) which is also called Ramazan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This year (2022), the holy month of Ramadan starts on April 2 and ends on May 1; however, the dates depend on the appearance of the crescent moon and may vary across world. In the Islamic world, Ramadan is observed as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. The main purpose of Ramadan for Muslims is to grow spiritually and to become closer to Allah (God) by abstaining from eating any food, drinking any liquids, smoking any tobacco products, and engaging in any sexual activities from dawn to dusk/sunset.
Muslims believe Allah forgives the past sins of those Muslims who observe Ramadan with fasting, prayers, and faithful intentions. Muslims gather in their homes or mosques to break their fast with a meal which is called Iftar. Most Muslims break their fast with dates, as was the custom of Prophet Muhammad (MPBUH). Many Muslims perform the traditional prayers of Ramadan which is called Taraway in Farsi/Dari. They perform the Taraway prayers either at home or in their local mosques. In mosques, during these prayers, the entire holy Quran is recited over the course of the month of Ramadan.
According to Islamic scholars, the holy Quran (Muslims Holy Book) was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (MPBUH) on the Night of Power (Laylat Al-Qadr), one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan (most scholars believe it was on the 27th night of Ramadan). Therefore, Ramadan is considered a month and a period of introspection, communal prayer in the mosque, and the recitation of the holy Quran.
Ramadan is one the five pillars of Islam. The five pillars include the following:
- Shahadah or stating that there is only one God (Allah) and Muhammad
(May Peace Be Upon Him) is his prophet.
- Salat or prayers performed in special prescribed manner five times a day
- Sawm or fasting during the month of Ramadan
- Zakat or alms tax designed to benefit the poor and the destitute
- Haj or the pilgrimage to Mecca for those Muslims who are physical
and financially capable of doing.
The end of Ramadan is celebrated as Eid al-Fitr, the feast of fast breaking, one of the two major religious holidays of the Muslim calendar.
NICCC’s 2022 Ramadan Services
Most mosques plan special prayers services and events during the month of Ramadan. The Noor Islamic and Cultural Community Center (NICCC), which I proudly represent, holds Taraway and the Recitation of the holy Quran prayer service every night of Ramadan from 9:00 PM to 11:30 PM. This is in addition to our regular prayers service five times a day.
NICCC also provides Iftar (Ramadan dinner) on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings during the month of Ramadan. Halal food is catered from a local Afghan restaurant to NICCC for these dinners. About 35 individuals, including some newly arrived Afghan refugees, eat together at NICCC . I’m very pleased to announce that on Saturday, April 16, NICCC has planned a special Iftar/dinner event in honor of the newly arrived Afghan refugees in the City of Concord. About 50 newly arrived Afghan refugee families, over 120 Afghans, are invited to this dinner which is cosponsored by Muslim Community Center (MCC).
The Noor Islamic and Cultural Community Center (NICCC) prepared a Ramadan services calendar (below) and distributed copies to the newly arrived Afghan refugees at Friday prayers and to those who bring their kids to Sunday School. This calendar was also texted/emailed to the rest of Afghan refugees in Concord. In addition, NICCC partnered with Berkeley Free Mobile Food to deliver free food for newly arrived Afghan refugees on the first day of Ramadan on Saturday, April 2.
We, at NICCC, plan to continue the food assistance to the newly arrived Afghan refugees throughout the month of Ramadan.