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A special time of the year for millions of Muslims worldwide began in the first week of March 2024, the Islamic month of Ramadan. 

Ramadan is the ninth month and holiest month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is a time of festivity, community, charity and prayer. Much like other major celebrations around the world, such as Christmas, Ramadan is celebrated differently across the world with unique cultural differences. But the heart of the celebration is the same.

Imam Ilyas Anwar

During this month, Muslims fast from food and drink from dawn to sunset. There are also special night prayers that are offered during Ramadan. This is because the Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan to the Prophet Muhammad. So, the objective is to give life to the nights of Ramadan by staying up and reciting the Quran. It is common for a community mosque to recite the entire 30-part Quran in congregation during the holy month. 

In the Islamic faith, fasting teaches discipline, sacrifice, mindfulness, reflection and empathy for those who are less fortunate. If unable to fast, Muslims can give to charity or fast outside of Ramadan.

Ramadan is also a time for hospitality. At sunset, families, friends, neighbors and entire mosque congregations get together to break their fast. It’s also common for family and friends to host iftar parties, the meal at sunset. Potlucks are popular this time of year, but others choose to prepare a homemade meal for their guests. 

The end of Ramadan is celebrated by Eid al-Fitr and is the second major Islamic holiday. It’s celebrated through communal prayer, gifts and a feast. The day begins with a special prayer service. Muslims dress in their best clothing for these services and attend with friends and family. Mosques host festivals with food, games, rides, bazaars and vendors and those with family nearby may enjoy at-home celebrations as well.

As with any important holiday or celebration, there are ways to send greetings and well wishes to those who celebrate. For Ramadan, common greetings are “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem.” For Eid, the greeting changes to “Eid Mubarak.” Mubarak means “filled with blessings” and Kareem means “generous” in Arabic. 

Imam Ilyas Anwar is the religious leader for South Valley Islamic Community, serving them and the larger Muslim community in the Bay Area for over 20 years. He is an active member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County and can be reached at [email protected].

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