The author of this essay, Imam Suhaib Webb, is a Washington-based scholar who earlier served as resident scholar at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.
When I travel to other countries, one of the first questions I’m asked is, “What is Ramadan like in America?” For American Muslims, like Muslims everywhere, it is a time to reconnect with God by observing fasts and through personal reflection and an increase in prayers and charity.
Most Islamic centers stay open all the time so it is easy to visit one during the month and worship. Oftentimes, there are lectures held in the mosque, so in addition to the acts mentioned above, there are opportunities to rekindle an intellectual interest in faith.
Guests frequent Islamic centers in higher numbers. Non-Muslim family members accompany recent converts, co-workers share a meal with a friend, and, in conjunction with universities, schools or other religious institutions, guests are invited to experience the food and spiritual blessings of the month. Oftentimes, civil and political leaders visit centers, acknowledging the important contributions of American Muslims.
Most mosques host daily iftars — a dinner at the time of breaking the fast. You find everything on the menu, from strictly American cuisine to choices from Southeast Asia, Arab countries, Africa and Europe. It is a food lover’s dream. Extra prayers are held at night, usually led by a skilled reciter of the Quran, and the community experiences a spiritual high that is unique to this blessed month.
Ramadan in America brings together an individual sense of responsibility with a greater sense of community and pride. Ramadan here is unique, just like it is unique in other countries, and a time for stomachs to stay empty while hearts are filled.