Hungry for Ramadan

The Ramadan calendar dates for 2009 are August 21st through September 19th.

Are you hungry for more on Ramadan? Here are some useful links for you to learn about this holy month observed by Muslims worldwide:

Shahed Amanullah is no longer blogging for us but you can still get the Islamic perspective daily from our Muslim blogger Azziz Poonawalla on his City of Brass blog. You can also follow Azziz Poonawalla on Twitter.

shahed_eid.jpgIt feels strange holding a cup of coffee in my hand today, just like it felt strange eating pizza for lunch over the weekend. Everything looks normal, but deep down I know it is not. I have just spent a month refraining from food and drink and trying constantly to keep God in my mind, and I am still in that mindset.
But how long will this last before I fade back into my old routines, where the responsibilities of daily life overwhelm that call from the Divine in the background?
As I’ve shared with you this month, Ramadan has many facets that help to enrich the lives of Muslims — spiritual, social, charitable, and physical. The great struggle post-Ramadan is figuring out how to extend those benefits through until the next Ramadan. There’s no one, universal way to do it. Each person needs to come to their own conclusion as to what works best for them. That is my task for the weeks ahead.
I hope that readers now get a sense of what Ramadan means for Muslims, and I encourage those of other faiths to borrow liberally from our traditions in ways that you feel might strengthen your own faith. I especially recommend looking back into your own fasting traditions — nearly every religion has one — and explore ways you can enrich your life with that. The framework of fasting is, I believe, an effective counterbalance to a modern society that is too often based on self-indulgence.

eid_children.jpgWhy is it that Eid is a three-day affair? Perhaps it is because Muslims (despite their best efforts) end up celebrating it on different days. For those Muslims who follow the lead of Saudi Arabia (as some of the more conservative mosques do), the Eid celebration is today. However, for most Muslims in America who follow either the calculation or the moon sighting methods, Eid is tomorrow, on Saturday. A weekend Eid is something special — we don’t have to take time out of work or pull our kids out of school for the day — and I intend to make the most of it.
If you’re not used to seeing Muslims, Eid is the day where you are most likely to see groups of them. Unfortunately (and we’re working on this), it will probably be because the parking situation around the location of Eid prayer is horrific, or because all the cabs seem to have disappeared off the streets. With the Muslim population in America growing as fast as it is, the average mosque is not big enough to accommodate all the worshippers, so larger venues are booked, often with many local mosque communities joining forces.
I’ve been to Eid services in convention centers, football and basketball stadiums, concert halls, and large city parks. Despite the larger size of the venue, multiple prayers (usually at 8 am and 10 am) are needed. Even in small towns, thousands of Muslims show up, because many otherwise non-observant Muslims show up for Eid. Here in Austin, we expect around 10,000 worshippers, and I’ve been to prayers in larger cities where the numbers approach 75,000. You’ll probably see footage of your local Eid celebrations on the evening news.

green_empirestate.jpgAs the fading crescent moon can attest to, the month of Ramadan is coming to a close. All around the world, readings of the Qur’an that started on the first page 30 days ago are reaching their conclusions. The long nights in the mosque over the last 10 days, in eager search of the Night of Power, have left many exhausted yet spiritually alive. For me, this month has been a time to look carefully at my life as a Muslim in America.
Is my life being lived in accordance to the principles of my religion? Is there anything I have done in the past for which I need to seek forgiveness? Are the big decisions I am making in my life ones that will keep me on the the straight path, and keep me from wronging others? These questions have kept me up at night for the last month, as I ask God for guidance in the coming year.
But in addition to recommitting oneself to the principles of my religion, Ramadan has also been a time for reinforcing social bonds, both within the Muslim American community and between Muslims and other Americans. As Muslim American institutions — mosques, schools, community centers, and media — continue to grow, the resources available to Muslims celebrating Ramadan increase. And as awareness of Ramadan increases among the American population at large, opportunities for interfaith understanding and shared celebration present themselves. One need only look up at the Empire State Building — clad in green over the coming weekend in commemoration of the end of Ramadan — to see how far we’ve come, despite the challenges of living in a post-9/11 America.