Celebrating Ramadan in non Muslim country
I’ve seen beautiful photographs of Ramadan celebrations in Muslim countries and have heard lovely stories about twinkling lights in the streets and the call of adhan being heard throughout the neighborhood as people hurry to prayer but I have yet to experience Ramadan anywhere but here within the United States.
After 16 years of practicing Islam within the U.S., I’ve fasted during the major holidays of Christmas (a joy for my parents who are Christian and who were able to give Eid gifts to my son closer to the time when the family exchanges gifts), during Thanksgiving , and most recently the Fourth of July – yes, in the full heat of the hot, Texas summer when the sun doesn’t set until well after 8pm – when I’ve been most reminded of what it must have been like to fast during the life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Despite the fact that our residential community is predominantly Christian, we are able to celebrate Ramadan openly and have most often found that our families and neighbors are curious and respectful of our practices. Ramadan brings our family closer together and allows us to make dawah to friends and family simply through observing the deen. One of my favorite aspects of Ramadan is being able to pray Fajr and Maghrib in jama’ah and to create memories with the children of reading Qur’an, visiting the Masjid and breaking/starting our fasts together.
Although our schedules keep us from being able to get to the Masjid as often as I would like, we are fortunate in that the mosque holds many events throughout the month which fosters the sense of community and which makes celebrating Ramadan that much more natural and comfortable. We can go for taraweeh prayers there which are held regularly, suhoor/iftar meals are provided and there are lectures with useful reminders and informative knowledge to help in strengthening our faith as we strive to complete our fasts and obligations. There are also calls for donations of food and gifts for families in need.
Many people may be surprised to learn that there is a sizeable Muslim community living in the Houston, TX area and in the years since we’ve been here I’ve seen an increase in the number of inter-faith activities that occur during Ramadan, like inter-faith iftar dinners and community service work at shelters for the homeless or victims of domestic abuse. Houston Mayor Annise Parker has hosted iftar dinners since I’ve lived here and over all, the Christian community in which we live is accepting and respectful of our beliefs.
We may not be able to hear the melodious call to prayer reverberating through the streets of our neighborhood, or be able to feel that special connection of shared intentions when talking to the neighbors next door as we explain why we cannot accept that glass of lemonade, but we do intend to have twinkling lights decorating our house for celebrating Eid and we are grateful to be able to practice our deen in peace as we seek the purification of our souls and the good pleasure of our Rabb throughout this blessed month.