By Dasha Morgan- For Muslims in the United States the holy month of Ramadan began on Sunday, May 5, and ends on Tuesday, June 4th. It is considered a blessed month, a time for reflection, contemplation, and celebration.
The annual observance of Ramadan is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam. During this holy month, Muslims also strive to practice “zakaat,” or charity. The five Pillars of islam are: Shahada, Declaration of Faith; Salaat, Establishing Prayer; Fasting, The Month of Ramadan; Zakaat, Alms to the Poor; and Hajj, the Holy Pilgrimage.
During Ramadan, practicing Muslims can eat before sunrise and break their fast after dusk each day.
Fasting becomes the spiritual process of burning away sin with good deeds and helps to bring empathy for others. Some are exempt from fasting, such as the elderly, someone with a medical condition and young children.
Besides abstinence from food and water, Muslims are asked to abstain from sexual intercourse as well. Usually Muslims go to their mosques more often and host dinners called iftars with friends and family to break the fast.
The last day of Ramadan is Eid al-Fitr, which is celebrated with feasting. As Muslims live in every part of the world, there are no specifically traditional Ramadan foods; there are only foods familiar to different regions.
This tradition began in the seventh century and commemorates the month when the Prophet Mohammed retreated to a cave north of Mecca for spiritual contemplation. It marks the day when Muslims believe the angel Gabriel began giving Mohammed revelations from God.
For Americans, an appropriate greeting can be Ramadan Kareem, which translates into “Have a generous Ramadan, or Ramadan Mubarak, which means Happy Ramadan.On the last day of Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr, the greeting changes to “Eid Mubarak.”
Overall, there are about 1.8 billion Muslims in the world and 2.3 billion Christians. Mosques dot the American landscape and are central to their devotional life. There are over 2,000 mosques in this country, with Islamic Centers throughout North Carolina—in Asheville, Charlotte, Durham, Raleigh and elsewhere. Sadly after the horror of 9/11 and more recent bombings by extremists and terrorists, anti-Muslim rhetoric is becoming more commonplace.
Many American Muslim leaders, heads of state, and organizations have repeatedly denounced extremist violence in the strongest possible terms. Many American Muslims, like most other Americans and virtually all senior mainstream Muslim clerics around the world, are deeply concerned about the problem of extremist violence committed around the world in the name of Islam. (See https://www.pewforum.org/2017/07/26/findings-from-pew-research-centers-2017-survey-of-us-muslims/.)
The Pew Research Center (www.pewresarch.org or www.pewsocialtrends.com) has been surveying Muslim populations for some years, and their numbers are considered authoritative. “The countries with the five highest Muslim populations are all in South and Southeast Asia or in sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the Middle East; and the countries with the three highest Christian populations are in the Americas rather than in the Middle East or Europe.”
According to an article by Conrad Hackett in 2017 “Muslims are a relatively small minority in Europe, making up roughly 5% of the population. However, in some countries, such as France and Sweden, the Muslim share of the population is higher. And, in the coming decades, the Muslim share of the continent’s population is expected to grow – and could more than double, according to Pew Research Center projections.” According to World Atlas, 98.6 % of Turkey identifies with Islam, but according to a Konda Research poll only 65% of them fast during Ramadan.
The Secretary of State. Michael Pompeo stated:
On behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I extend best wishes to Muslim communities at home and abroad for a blessed Ramadan.
For many Muslims, this month is an occasion to focus on spiritual rejuvenation, kindness and resilience, compassion for those less fortunate, and harmony across diverse communities. In the United States, many mosques and homes welcome friends and neighbors of different faiths to unite under our common American values of equality, charity, and generosity.
In the last month, there have been attacks on places of worship of all three Abrahamic faiths, and across the world there are serious challenges to the ability to freely practice one’s faith. Governments and citizens can best overcome the hate that motivates these attackers by working together to advance religious freedom for all. Ramadan serves as a reminder to people of all faiths and backgrounds of the importance of shared compassion, respect, and support for one another. Through the daily act of breaking fast and sharing a meal, Ramadan revitalizes community bonds and emphasizes community service. In this spirit, we reflect upon our mutual responsibilities for one another, regardless of faith, and strive to be our best selves.
Across the world, many of our embassies and consulates host iftar receptions, which demonstrate the core strengths of our diplomacy and fortify our commitment to religious freedom, inclusion of and respect for religious minority communities, and partnerships for peace.
As the holy month of Ramadan begins, I wish all Muslims a joyful Ramadan Kareem.