Hugs and chatter with friends I have not seen in months. Greetings and introductions to those I have not met before. Hearing the adhan in-person in the masjid. Grabbing a medjool date and savoring the pillowy, chewy, and cake-like texture after a long day’s fast.
I have been able to experience Ramadan alhamdulillah in different cities, countries, but most importantly with a variety of communities. I never felt necessarily attached to a single community and have spent the last few Ramadans traveling around like a wayfarer.
This year and last, I split my time in Ramadan between Indianapolis and Chicago. This year, I visited Darussalam, Islamic Foundation Villa Park, Islamic Foundation North Libertyville, American Islamic College, Downtown Islamic Center, Muslim Society Inc., Geist Community Center, and Masjid Al-Huda. I tasted Ethiopian, Turkish, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and other cuisines, all within one Ramadan. In previous Ramadans, I spent my time in Seattle, Washington D.C., Bangladesh, and Tajikistan. I interacted with Muslims of different ethnicities, backgrounds, ages, and cultures, building camaraderie and connection with Muslims all over the world.However, as much as we hear about the food and siyam (fasting), the primary purpose of Ramadan is about additional acts of ibadah (worship) with an emphasis on congregational worship. The purpose of the group environment during Ramadan is for one to be surrounded by good company who prioritizes worship, which has impacted me greatly.
With regards to congregational worship, I have been able to attend a few programming events. I did my first Qiyam night, without family, in an organized sisters program at Islamic Foundation Villa Park, in which they had over 300+ sisters in the masjid. My dream to go to Masjid Darrussalam was fulfilled with another sisters’ event on du’a and I was able to listen to the post-tarawih talk on “Gems of the Quran.” For the tarawih prayers, the imams have a khatira (lecture) in the middle which discuss important lessons and reminders for the gathering to ponder on. There is an emphasis on implementing these lessons in our daily lives, as the purpose of Ramadan is not only spiritual cleansing, but it is also to continue these habits throughout the year in our daily lives and beyond.
Although congregational worship is a prominent type of worship this month, it is also a month of the development of oneself spiritually through taddabur (reflection), charitable giving and service, and asking Allah SWT for forgiveness as well. I have learned so much from others, whether from conversations or from lectures, which have influenced my own personal religious development. I personally have been able to learn so much from the month and carry my journals wherever I go, to note down important remarks and reflect on my own shortcomings. I always enjoy standing late nights in tarawih prayer and listening to the Qur’an being recited and contemplating the verses as I hear them. For the Muslim community, Ramadan marks the month when the Qur’an was revealed, and consequently, there is an emphasis placed on the text throughout. The Qur’an is written in Arabic and learning this language this past year has made a significant impact in my salah (prayer) in terms of comprehension. I have grown such an appreciation of the language; now I follow some of the beautiful words of the Qur’an unlike ever before.
I am also reminded of the fasts I would practice during my childhood. I would fast while school was in session, and not eat in front of my school friends in the cafeteria. Teachers were kind in high school and offered for me to stay in their classroom, instead of staying in the cafeteria during lunch period. I would fast during my tennis season and cross country. I would always look forward to the community sponsored iftars by our masjid and the iftars that I would have as a family.
Experiencing Ramadan in different languages and interacting with diverse communities across the globe, is just a reminder to myself that what binds our Muslim communities together is not only our belief in Islam and our Beloved Creator, but also our commitment to striving to better ourselves and those around us.
 Adhan is the word for Call to Prayer in the Muslim world
 Masjid is the Arabic word for mosque
 Arabic phrase for “Praise be to God”
 Qiyam means “to stand before God” during the Islamic prayer
 Du’a is the word for prayer in Arabic
 Tarawih refers to the congregational prayer performed after dinner only during Ramadan
 Iftar is the word for breaking one’s fast and having dinner during Ramadan
Mayesha Awal received her B.A. in both Psychology and Government from Georgetown University, and her M.S. in Healthcare Management from Indiana University-Bloomington. Prior to working as an Analyst, Mayesha has contributed extensively to international and domestic experiential-learning trips related to public health. She has also worked in a large hospital system, in its continuous improvement department. Overall, Mayesha has developed skills in research, data analysis, project management, and field experience, in her experiences as an intern.
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