Ramadan in: America by xpXQS8a


									 Ramadan in: America


     Fatemah Alhusayni

 Instructor: Kwanghyun Park

ESL 015, Academic Writing 02

         Fall 2005

Pennsylvania State University


       Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. It is determined by

seeing the crescent of the moon at the last day of the previous month. Ramadan is the

month of fasting. Muslims everywhere abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn to

sunset each day the entire month. Exceptions, of course, are made for the sick and the

people who travel. Ramadan is also the month of will power, being closer to God, and

being nice to your friends and family (Hoyt- Goldsmith, 2001). As a Muslim living

temporarily in America, I had my own Ramadan experience that I shared with my

neighbor, Adel Esmael’s family, who came to the United States six months ago for study.

In this research paper, I will introduce and explain how Muslims (citizens and non-

citizens) experience Ramadan in the United Sates, and how it is compared to Ramadan in

the Muslim world.

Ramadan in the Muslim world:

       Ramadan is a very special time in the Muslim world. It has a unique ambience.

All working hours will be cut to half and special TV programs would be set just to

broadcast in Ramadan. Fatemah Haider, Adel Esmael’s wife, recalls her memory about

last year’s Ramadan in Kuwait by stating: “before dawn, we wake up and eat something

before we begin our day of fasting. Then, we would hear the Athan, stop eating and go

for prayer”. Athan is when a special man goes to the top of the mosque calling for

believers to prayer (Hoyt- Goldsmith, 2001), so that all the people in the town hear them

and know that it is pray time. Athan is especially important in Ramadan because when

people hear Athan for dawn prayer, it is also the time for them to stop from eating and

drinking, and when they hear it at the sunset time, it would be the time for them to break

their fasting. Ramadan is also the time when older women spend most of the time in the

kitchen preparing nice and special dishes for the fast breaking dinner. Fatemah continues

her memories about Ramadan in Kuwait by saying: “...at the sunset time, we go to my in-

laws house for Iftar”. Iftar is the Arabic word meaning fast breaking. “My mother-in-law

makes the best dishes in the world, I miss her food”. Traditionally, people break their

fasting on some dates and buttermilk or water, which is the same way Prophet

Mohammad used to break his fasting. At the break-fast dinner, all the family gather

around the dinning table, the food will be served hot out of the cooking pots, serving

elderly people first then children, about three to four first course meals will be presented

along with appetizers, salads and a verity of side dishes. After the dinner, most people

would take a short nap, some would watch TV programs, and others would go to worship

Allah, God in Arabic, by praying and reciting the holy Quran, the holy book in Islam just

like the bible in Christianity. When people wake up from their nap, all the family gathers

once again to have some tea and dessert. When it is time to sleep, some people go to bed,

but some stay awake all night worshipping Allah until just before dawn. At that time,

people would eat their last meal before it is time again to fast another day.

Ramadan in America:


       Muslims who came to the Untied States to work or study, find it very difficult to

adjust to the rushing life in America, especially those who came from cultures where time

does not have a formal implication in people’s lives. Spending Ramadan in the United

States away from home was an unpleasant experience for Fatemah who described this

year’s Ramadan as “the worst Ramadan I have ever experienced”. She continues by

stating: “We don’t know that many people here, we can’t stand American foods and we

have no access to Arabic channels on TV. I miss my family and friends, I miss going to

mosques, and I miss the smell of delicious foods at sunset”. In small towns like State

College, PA, where Adel and his family live, it is hard to find Muslim families, Arabic

specialty stores and other stuff that would remind expatriate of their homes. In other areas

where the majority of American Muslims live, Ramadan is usually more warming and

welcoming. In Los Angeles, a home of over 500,000 Muslims (Haddad & Smith, 1994),

people live in a very similar way to the Muslim world. They have Arabic restaurants,

over sixteen mosques (Masjid addresses in the United State, 1998) and even entire

neighborhoods where shopping stores are all middle-eastern. Ramadan is also harder for

singles than families since they have to work all day and they do not have time to cook.

They usually come back from work or school to break their fasting on fast food meals.

Jawed Hassan is a graduate student at Penn State University. He lived in the United

States for four years before he got married in 2003 and had a family. He remembers his

Ramadan days when he was single by saying: “I lived with two of my friends in an

apartment near Pizza Hut. We would finish our classes at around sunset. We would go to

Pizza Hut and order a Pizza. Then, we would go to Hollywood video store to rent a

movie and then go back to pick up our pizza. We would have pizza for break-fast for

almost every day of Ramadan”. He continues by saying: “It is much better now that I am

married. I actually have someone to share my life and faith with. I come back from

school to find my wife and daughter waiting for me with delicious food for break-fast”


       Islam is an established religion in the United States. There are about five million

Muslims (Hoyt- Goldsmith, 2001) who live in almost all fifty states of the United States

and there are about 1,209 mosques across the country (Muslim life in America, 2002).

People came from all over the world to live a better life. They kept their faith and

traditions. Now they live a better life and merge in the population of America while

practicing their religious rituals without restraints. For those five million, Ramadan is

another Islamic rite; just like praying and wearing Hijab (veil). They actually established

their own American Ramadan traditions that resulted from the great diversity of Muslims

coming from all over the world in addition to interacting with the American culture. That

might be visible through the type of dishes they prepare and how the recipes have

changed and evolved.

Americans and Islam:

       Although the majority of the population of the United States is Christians, the

separation of the church and government made it easy for any minority or religious group

to practice their faith freely. “People here are nicer than I thought, I didn’t think they

would accept me wearing Hijab” Fatemah says about how kind the American people are.

A recent survey of islamonline.net result shows that 55% of Americans view Islam in a

favorable light (More Americans see Islam in favorable light, 2005). Ramadan is a

welcoming celebration in America. In some communities including Washington DC,

local television stations broadcast daily Ramadan greetings. A few years ago President

George W. Bush hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House, welcoming representatives

from 53 Muslim nations. Also for the last few years, the U.S Department of State has

hosted an Iftar dinner for prominent American Muslim leaders (30 days of prayer for the

Muslim world, 2005).


         Even though Americans are very welcoming and try their best not to make you

feel a stranger, Ramadan is always going to be hard for those who have been away from

home, especially with the huge cultural and life style differences. On the other hand,

American Muslims seem to enjoy Ramadan as much as people in the Muslim world.

They created their own traditions and customs adjusting to the life tone of the United

States. They combined Americans’ efficiency in work and education with spirituality and



Adel Esmael and his wife Fatemah Haider came to the United States in June 2005. Adel

is a Penn State University student. They live in State College, PA with their two children.

Jawad Hassan is a graduate student at Penn State University. He lives with his wife and

13-month old daughter in State College, PA.


  30 days of prayers for the Muslim world (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2005, from

Haddad, Y.Y & Smith, J.I (1994). Muslim Communities in North America. Albany: State

              University of Press.

Hoyt-Goldsmith, D. (2001). Celebrating Ramadan. The United States of America.

Masjid addresses in the United State (1998). Retrieved Dec 07, 2005 from


More Americans see Islam in favorable light: Poll (2005, July 27). Retrieved Dec 04,

              2005 from http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2005-


Muslim life in America (2002, October). Retrieved Dec 04, 2005 from


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