Interview with Aziza Maheen
How is Ramadan celebrated in your country ?
Ramadan in America is celebrated pretty much like anywhere else. As you know, Muslims in America hail from numerous countries--but the majority come from the Middle East and South Asia. Over 30% of Muslims in the United States are African-American. There's a great deal of diversity in terms of how Ramadan is celebrated in the U.S. Each ethnic group brings its own customs and traditions to the table. Like Muslims in other countries, our mosques have various services during Ramadan. We have nightly tarawah prayers, we have iftar dinners and some even have sehri in the early morning. All mosques offer Eid/Bayram prayers. It is common for Muslims families to host iftar dinners for family and friends throughout Ramadan. We carry on with our normal daily routines, but do make the effort to celebrate Ramadan. American-Muslim organizations are also doing their part in having Americans recognize the importance of Ramazan in Islam--and through Ramazan festivities educate Americans about Islam. Many mosques host inter-faith iftar dinners to which local non-Muslims are invited. These are great opportunities to host inter-faith dialogue and bring about a better understanding of Islam. Mosques also organize Ramadan bazaars for Bayram shopping.
During Ramadan, mosques are very proactive in collecting Zakat---a lot of which goes back into the American community. Many Muslim young people actively volunteer in helping the poor and needy. For example, in Chicago Muslims set up soup-kitchens to help the needy (non-Muslim and Muslim). At universities, Muslim student groups host ‘Eid dinners that are open to all university students and faculty. Many gropus receive university funding to host iftars for Muslims students on campus. Most U.S. university campuses make the effort to accommodate Muslim students who are living on campus and observing the Ramadan fast.
American Muslims are fortunate in that they are able to celebrate Ramazan to the fullest. I am sure that celebrating Ramadan in a majority Muslim nation has its own flavor, but American-Muslims do their best to bring the spirit of Ramadan to the U.S.
How much interest can you observe in your country?
I am not sure how well this question can be answered. It's hard to gauge how much interest Muslims have in terms of partaking in Ramadan. Just as in any Muslim country, there are Muslims who are very observant and those who are not. That being said, during Ramadan mosques are packed with men and women during the nightly tarawah prayers. Muslim-owned businesses thrive on sales during Ramadan, be they restaurants or clothing shops or even stationary shops that sell Ramadan greeting cards.
What makes Ramadan unique in the place you live?
The diversity of the Muslim-American community. It is great to learn about and partake in the various traditions and customs of my Muslim friends during Ramadan.