In our new land, a celebration of God’s Party Month
Dates, water, and the Quran — iconic aspects of Ramadan.

In our new land, a celebration of God’s Party Month

For new Afghan evacuees in the region — and for Muslims the world over — Ramadan marks a month full of kindness and goodness, ritual and prayer, fasting and breaking fasts

BRATTLEBORO — The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar year. In this month, those of us who are Muslim follow specific religious practices that include fasting and prayer.

This month is called by different names, such as “forgiveness month,” “blessing month,” “mercy month,” “plenty month,” “happy month,” “the month closest to God,” and “God's party month.”

It is divided into three parts. The first 10 days are called “mercy.” The second 10 days are called “forgiveness,” and the third 10 days are called “the blessing that God rewards to Muslims.”

In this month full of kindness and goodness, all Muslims in the world have been fasting. Many live in non-Muslim countries that follow the Gregorian calendar, which affects the timing of Ramadan. It may be 29, 30, or 31 days long.

In the holy Quran, God called this “the month of the revelation of the Quran.” The Quran was originally revealed to the Prophet Mohammed - peace and blessings of Allah be upon him - in several pieces over a 22-year period, from 610 to 632.

Then, on a special night called “Shabe-e-Qadr,” the 21st day of Ramadan, it was revealed again all at once in its entirety.

* * *

People start fasting in the early morning, before sunrise, and continue until the evening when the sun sets. We Muslims wake up very early in the morning. The time for waking up may be different in each country.

Here in Brattleboro, we got up at 3:30 a.m. We wake up, and eat and drink our morning meal. Muslims have to refrain from drinking and eating for 17 to 18 hours each day, but this may differ in each country in the world.

Here in Brattleboro, I got up at 3 a.m. and do my ablutions, which I'll speak about later.

I then have the morning meal called Sahari. During Ramadan, we Muslims mostly drink and eat the foods they usually eat for the breakfast. We eat sweet foods to have enough energy for a long day. But some of us eat spicy foods. We drink tea, milk, juice, and enough water for us not to feel thirsty during the day.

One of my roommates eats cheese and bread and drinks tea. I eat bread and jam and drink milk.

* * *

After it gets dark, Muslims break their fast; this time is called “Iftar.” Those of us who are fasting break our fasts with a date, which is gentle and good for a fasting stomach.

The date also has spiritual rewards, since our prophet Muhammad - peace and blessings of Allah be upon him - always broke his fasts with dates. That's why Muslims continue to do this. If dates are not available, we break our fasts with water.

Women have cooked spicy foods and delicious sweets for the meal that is then eaten at some point later in the evening.

After breaking the fast and eating and drinking a little, Muslims get ready for prayer. We pray five times a day: early morning, noon, afternoon, in the evening after Iftar and night prayers. Some Muslims break their fasts in the mosques. They take the Iftar food with them to share with others who might not have as good an economic situation.

During our night prayers, we have a special part called “Tarawih.” In this prayer, usually performed in the mosques, the Imam recites the whole holy Quran. Each night, for 30 nights, he recites a part of the holy Quran with worshipers so that by end of Ramadan he will have read the whole Quran.

Most Muslims (men, women, and children) go to the mosque to perform Tarawih in a congregation. Mosques have separate places for men and women.

Before going to the mosques, each Muslim should wash specific parts of their bodies. This act of “ablution” is called “Ozu” and takes place before praying.

We have to wash specific parts of our body at any time we are going to pray, whether we are going to the mosque or not. We have to wash our hands up to the wrist, our private places, our mouths, the inside of each nostril, our faces, our ears, our hands again - this time, up to the elbows. We anoint the top of our heads with water and then wipe our hands down the back of our necks and finally wash our feet up to the ankles.

When some people do not have the ability to go to the mosque, they can pray at home. Many women and some children do this.

Also, during Ramadan there is special consideration given to people who don't have the physical ability to fast: for example, medical patients and pregnant or breastfeeding women. They can perform this time of fasting when they are able.

Muslims perform many acts of charity this month for the poor by giving them food and by buying them new clothes and other things that they need. Each of us, at the end of Ramadan, is also expected to give a small amount of money to the poor when they have completed their fasts.

This charity is called “Fitr” and is often given on the first day of Eid, the day we celebrate the end of Ramadan, when Muslim men go to the mosques for special prayers.

In this month of Ramadan, if Muslims are fasting, we should not listen to any music but religious music, we should not watch negative or harmful things, nor should we speak ill of others or use offensive language. We speak using kind, helpful, and pleasant language, and we listen to encouraging speeches and engage in positive actions.

* * *

As you can imagine, Ramadan 2022 has been a different one for some Muslims who recently left Afghanistan and arrived in America. I talked to my Afghan friends who are living in Brattleboro and asked them about their different Ramadans here.

Yusuf Ahmadi, one of the new Afghan refugees, said that this Ramadan is completely different compared to previous years. He hasn't been able to pray on time because most of the time he has been working and the work time conflicts with the times for his prayers.

“The most different thing that I see is that we don't have mosques here to listen to the Imam's voice calling people to pray specially in this Ramadan month and calling us to break our fasts,” he said. “We just use a Google app to set the time, which is not pleasant for me.”

“I couldn't do Tarawih in a congregation at the mosque with people,” Ahmadi continued. “I do Tarawih and pray by myself. What I missed most is my mother's home cooked food. In this Ramadan, I must wake up for Sahari and make Iftari for myself.”

But he has been thankful for the people around him who are appreciating Ramadan. He has been especially thankful to his employer, who has already helped him and his colleagues to prepare Iftar and has given them enough time to pray while still completing the demands of their jobs.

Zakia Ahmadi, a mom who is living with her three children and has resettled in Brattleboro, said that she has also experienced a different Ramadan. She said that she couldn't perform the acts of charities and the prayers here as she had in Afghanistan.

“Brattleboro's people expressed happiness when they learned a little about this month,” she said. “They created a mosque for us to go and pray. I'm thankful for their kindness. They support us whatever ways they can to take care of our religious need.”

“Generally I had a good Ramadan but I wish to perform Ramadan in the best spiritual way next year,“ she said.

Amir Mohammad Samar, a project manager at Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, said that he was working with his American colleagues all day when he was fasting. He is glad to know that his friends here have been understanding about this month and respect his religion.

Karen Kamenetzky, a volunteer with the local Afghan refugees resettlement effort, said that she has been given a rich opportunity to learn a bit more about Islamic traditions, especially about Ramadan.

“I'm absolutely amazed to witness the deep spiritual commitment this month-long dawn-to-dusk fasting entails. And fasting while out working a job [or being] home taking care of children seems beyond difficult to me,“ she says.

* * *

I had an opportunity to explain my beliefs and practices about Ramadan when I had an appointment with a local dentist. She said I would need to have a tooth pulled, but I explained to her that I couldn't do so until after Ramadan.

When she became aware that we do not drink water for 16 or 17 hours in the day and I told her that I was afraid I would swallow my own blood - which we consider a form of water - she said that she respected my beliefs. She was amazed at our discipline and she said that she knows fasting has benefits for our physical bodies. She said she would like to fast as we do during Ramadan once in her life.

When Ramadan ends, Muslims celebrate Eid for three days. On the first day of the Eid, people wear new clothes. Men prepare to go to the mosque in the morning wearing clean and pleasant clothes to pray to God and give thanks for finishing Ramadan in the best way. This prayer time is obligatory for men, not women.

Then the men come back home and congratulate other family members for finishing Ramadan. During the days of Eid, people gather with their friends in their houses. Women cook fresh and delicious foods. They serve guests dried fruits, fresh fruits, cookies, cakes, tea, and different kinds of juices. Some people may host small parties with their friends in their houses, or they go for picnics in surrounding villages.

I'm happy to have fasted this year here among new friends. Ramadan ended on May 1, and we are celebrating Eid with our new Vermont neighbors In Brattleboro.

We have gained so much love from Vermonters, yet we still feel the lack of our families back home in Afghanistan. At the end of this spiritual month, my wish for all my compatriots is that they will have their families with them next year.

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