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9541Ramadan News: 'Ramadan Charities Help Malawi Christians' and more

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jul 19, 2014
      Ramadan Charities Help Malawi Christians
      By Khalid Abubaker,
      OnIslam Correspondent
      Saturday, 19 July 2014 00:00


      LILONGWE – Taking advantage of the spirit of sharing among Muslims during the Holy month of Ramadan, hordes of needy Christians are flocking to various designated iftar distribution centers alongside their Muslim counterparts amid the deteriorating standards of living in the southern African nation.

      “In most of the centers designated for distribution of the foodstuffs to needy Muslims since the beginning of Ramadan, we are overwhelmed by growing numbers of Malawians of other faith groups who are coming to benefit from this level of goodwill,” Sheikh Abdu Fattani, National Chairperson of Islamic Relief Agency, told OnIslam.net.

      “We are moved by this development, because it clearly indicates that our helping hand extends even beyond the Muslim community. Our religion is glorified by this.”

      Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started this year on Sunday, June 29, in Malawi.

      In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

      In Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint, good deeds and charity to the poor.

      Along with serving the poor Muslims during the month of fasting, the Muslim community in Malawi has offered help to the needy of all other faiths in the secular, but diverse religious southern African nation.

      “This development is also telling us the deepening levels of poverty among Malawians of all beliefs. The deteriorating standards of living have hugely impacted on the majority poor without consideration of faith or otherwise. During this period of Ramadan, we are therefore reaching out to all, without any form of discrimination based on religion,” Sheikh Fattani said.

      “This development is a sign of the level of desperation among the have-nots in the country who have nowhere to turn to amid the current economic misery.”

      Fattani said the also this development is also fostering unity among Malawians of all faith beliefs.

      “If both Muslims and Christians could come together during Ramadan and get food for their sustenance, without feeling discriminated, to us as a Muslim community signifies unity.

      “We are therefore appealing to all Muslim leaders all over the country to accommodate Malawians of all faith beliefs, whenever they turn up to access food stuffs in all the distribution centers. We are extending a helping hand to all those in need during this time of fasting. We are doing this unconditionally. We have to show others, the beauty of our religion.”


      The efforts led by Muslim charities were commended by some influential leaders within the Christian community as a “bridge” towards enforcing unity among diverse religions.

      “Muslims giving out food to needy Christians during Ramadan is a wonderful development that we applaud. This shows how benevolent Muslims can be during Ramadan. And this calls for us Christian leaders to rethink our attitude towards Islam and Muslims,” Bishop Brighton Malasa, Chairperson of the Anglican Council of Malawi (ACM), a mother body of the Anglican Church in the country told OnIslam.net.

      “This is a rare development. The current economic situation has really pushed people too far. We are really called to do something to bail our faithful from the rising levels of suffering they are being subjected to,” Bishop Malasa said.

      Random interviews among the Christian beneficiaries who most of them are old and sick reveal that they are left uncared for by relations.

      “My challenge is to access food. I look after 3 orphans, and at the same time, I’m sick. What I’m getting from the Muslims is helping me to feed my family. I’m very grateful to God. I wish Ramadan had continued even for more months,” Ruth Chitete, a widow told OnIslam.net.

      “Religions should encourage the spirit of giving and helping the poor. God has blessed them with wealth so that they can help the poor like us. Those who worship in truth must give and help those in need unconditionally,” said Chitete.

      Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi after Christianity. It accounts for 36% of the country’s 16 million population.

      Islam is the first religion to be introduced in Malawi in the late 1870s by Arab traders.

      Since then, Muslims have played a pivotal role in accelerating social and economic development in Malawi.

      Somaliland:Haji Gujis Ramadan Tournament kicks off


      Hargeisa – Somaliland capital, city lord Mayor Abdirahman Mohamoud Aydiid (Soltelco) accompanied by Director General of Ministry of Sports and youth Mohamed Ahmed Husein and Chairman of Basketball Federation Mohamoud Hassan Qodah have officially opened basketball tournament which was started in Tima-Ade last night where 7 teams from the capital city have participated.

      Breaking the Ramadan Fast in Malaysia
      July 8, 2014 / 3:26 pm


      I’d known for weeks it was coming. There were local carnivals, music festivals, new lights strung up on lamp posts that dot the small two-lane thoroughfare snaking along the edge of the sea. But I’d been actively avoiding, even dreading finding out when it would arrive during my stay here in Malaysian town of Kudat. Still a few more days, another few yet, I hoped.

      And then June 28th happened. When I took my usual Sunday stroll to town, I saw the mini-markets, the banks, the bakery, and the cafes all closed. Gone were the glass panels displaying row after row of nasi campur, mie goreng, sambal, and dahl.

      At first, I felt sharp pangs of panic, and then denial. I knocked gently on a kitchen door left slightly ajar. A man rose from his knees, tapped two fingers on his wrist, shook his head, and closed the door.

      Qur’an Competition Spices Kenya’s Ramadan
      By Ally A. Jamah,
      OnIslam Correspondent
      Friday, 18 July 2014 00:00


      NAIROBI – For Kenyan Muslims, this year's Ramadan has been spiced up by an exciting and tightly-fought Qur’an competition that saw hundreds of children trying to outdo each other in the art of reciting and memorizing of the holy book.

      "I really enjoyed listening to those children reciting Allah’s book so artfully and with melodious voices," Mohammed Abdi, a regular worshipper at Nairobi’s Jamia Mosque, told OnIslam.net.

      “My heart was really moved. It made my Ramadan quite special,” he added.

      Over the last weekend, large numbers of Muslims gathered in Nairobi's Jamia Mosque, Kenya's largest mosque in the heart of the capital, to watch and listen to children from various schools in the city racing for the top positions in the annual competition.

      The three-day event that began on Friday and climaxed in Sunday afternoon added flavour to the experiences of fasting Muslims.

      Worshippers filled a large part of the expansive mosque as they got themselves soaked in the melodious tones of the words of Allah and waited expectantly to know the winners.

      Draping India in Ramadan Festivities
      By Raisa Ladji
      Freelance Writer, India
      Thursday, 17 July 2014 00:00


      While predominantly Hindu, India shelters the second largest concentration of Muslims in the world after Indonesia. Hence, you can imagine that Ramadan in India is celebrated with extreme zest as in Muslim dominated countries albeit with an Indian influence.

      Since Muslims in India are divided based on various grounds and there exists more than 70 sub castes, most celebrations are also influenced by the topography and the culture of a particular region thus causing the celebrations to vary considerably.

      Muslims across the country celebrate this dawn-to-dusk fast. Different cities have different changes during this month. New Delhi, Capital of India observed a 20% drop in the fruit rates, reasons being increase in the demand during Ramadan. This year, Ramadan brought some exciting news, about 150 Hindu inmates fasting along with the 2300 Muslim inmates in jail in Tihar. This is the extent of Ramadan’s miracle in India.

      Photo Essay: Ramadan in exile
      This Ramadan thousands of displaced Iraqis and Syrians are forced to observe the Islamic holy month in refugee camps.
      Last updated: 16 Jul 2014 13:12



      London’s Muslims celebrate Ramadan in traditional style
      Written by : Mohammed Al-Shafey
      on : Saturday, 19 Jul, 2014


      London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Despite being expats and practicing different customs to those of the West, Muslims from around the world who are living in London have not abandoned the religious rituals and social customs they practice during Ramadan. The multicultural nature of British cities, and particularly of London, has made ample room for Muslim communities to freely practice their customs and celebrate the holy month.

      When you walk the streets of London, at first you are unlikely to notice any signs of Ramadan, except for the occasional iconic double-decker bus driving past with an ad for a Muslim charity on the side, reminding the faithful of their charitable obligations.

      The Ramadan atmosphere, though, is hard to miss on Edgware Road, the heart of London’s Arab community, and the other neighborhoods where Muslim communities live. Here, you immediately get a sense of the religious and cultural heritage Muslims have brought with them from their home countries.

      The mosques across London are filled with the prayers of believers from many nations. This is especially true of the Islamic Cultural Centre and the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park. The mosque, popularly known as the Regent’s Park Mosque, is a destination for thousands of worshipers during Ramadan.

      This Ramadan, the mosque is running religious classes, forums, cultural seminars and serves up suhoor, the meal Muslims eat before sunrise during Ramadan.

      The center’s director, Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan, explains that “during the Taraweeh [special Ramadan prayers], you notice long queues of worshippers of different nationalities flocking to pray in profound reverence and to listen to the recitation of verses from the Qur’an.”

      Even London’s Muslim youth are observing Ramadan, which involves additional prayers and abstaining from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. “You notice that the Muslim youth have a great concern for the holy month of Ramadan,” Dubayan said.

      “On the other hand, we cannot deny the fact that the identity of some Muslim youths have become weak after they have lived such a different life [in the West],” he said, adding that the cultural center offers special lectures for young people to learn about Islam.

      Elsewhere in London, Arab shops and restaurants are decorated with Ramadan lanterns and Islamic tableaux. Grocery shops are stocked with traditional Ramadan foods, which have often been specially imported from Muslim countries.

      Some restaurants are serving up the iftar meal at sunset, as Muslim customers flock to break their fast. Other establishments are providing free meals to the poor and needy during Ramadan.

      The social custom of exchanging visits, sitting in coffeehouses and visiting malls is also practiced in London. But the long days and short nights of northern Europe are making it difficult to pass the night celebrating with family and friends, as happens in the Arab world.

      Nonetheless, the tradition of staying up at night has come to London, where cafes and restaurants—especially those owned by members of London’s Southeast Asian Muslim community—are staying open late for the holy month. This is especially true among the Asian Muslim communities in London.

      Statistics show that the majority of Muslims in the UK come from south Asian countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

      The Kuwaiti population is also very active in celebrating Ramadan in the capital, just as they are back home. Many Kuwaitis are meeting with friends around a breakfast table in the early hours of the morning, in the style of the traditional Kuwaiti Diwaniya gathering.

      The Kuwaiti Embassy in London is also observing social customs, with the aim of establishing contact between its citizens. The embassy opens its doors to its nationals and staff throughout the whole month of Ramadan. These gatherings are concluded with a Ghabqa, a traditional Kuwaiti Ramadan banquet.

      Muslims constitute around 5 percent of the population of the UK, numbering around 2.7 million according to the 2011 census, and are about 12 percent of London’s population.

      China Xinjiang: Muslim students 'made to eat' at Ramadan
      By Martin Patience
      BBC News, Beijing
      11 July 2014


      During Ramadan in Morocco, the djellaba reigns supreme


      The traditional Moroccan djellaba gains exceptional popularity during Ramadan and both children and adults alike wear it. Many Moroccan cities are known for making this authentic traditional wear, which is considered a symbol of Moroccan identity. The Bzoui djellaba, named after the Bzou region in Bani Malal in the western center of the Moroccan kingdom, is one of the finest and nicest types of this authentic traditional dress.

      Most Moroccans are familiar with this type of djellabas, which they wear on religious occasions, weddings, parties and in parliament.

      Mohammad al-Idrisi, a producer of traditional wear, said, “During the last 10 days of Ramadan, demand for the Bzoui djellabas significantly increases and their prices range. An average-quality djellaba costs 1,500 dirhams [$180], while the price of high-quality djellabas reaches 5,000 dirhams [$600]. During Ramadan, the sale of Bzoui djellabas and silhams [another traditional dress] is twice as high as in previous months; foreign demand is also higher than local demand.”

      Regarding the making of the Bzoui djellaba, Zahra, a handicraft worker, said, “It takes around a month to make it. First, the wool is set and washed. Then, it is mixed with brimstone to be weaved later. Silk is available in all colors, according to demand — including white, yellow and blue — and it is brought from Fez. Then the djellaba is woven and sold in Sidi Saghir Bin Minyar market on Fridays. Girls sell it in this market, which was named after Sidi Saghir Bin Minyar [one of the region’s holy figures] due to its closeness to his grave. The price of the djellaba [here] ranges between 500 [$60] and 1,500 dirhams [$180].”

      To increase the revenues of their craft, some djellaba knitters established cooperatives for women to facilitate buying the raw material and marketing their products. The head of Al-Wafaa Mazouz Lel Nassij Cooperative, Habiba Zaradi, 50, said that the djellaba plays a role in local economy. She considered it the second source of income for her family after her husband’s salary and the only opportunity for the women and girls of Bzou. Habiba is careful to teach the craft to her daughters and granddaughters, and the djellaba knitters hope their income will improve by introducing regulations around the marketing [of traditional djellaba] in Bzou and establishment of female cooperatives in Bzou. The women there have started to fear for their craft. The Handicraft Delegation in Azilal [a town in central Morocco] recommended establishing a committee to control the quality of the textile used and fight fake silk. It intends to put a quality stamp on the
      product to distinguish it from other producers in the region.

      Interested people in the craft believe that the problems that the djellaba trade faces include lack of marketing and popularity. Moreover, some brokers and middlemen buy djellabas at competitive prices and sell them at a high price in major cities, considering silhams and djellabas are among the finest traditional clothes. By contrast, some of those studying the history of Bzou would face serious impediments since the historical record does not give satisfactory answers or sufficient evidence to extract the hard facts about the origins of various walks of Bzoui life. The emergence of this textile’s industry in Bzou remains the focus of conflicting opinions and different narratives, including two probable ones: the first stating that this textile was discovered before the Islamic conquest, while the second suggests that it appeared in the second century of hijra.

      According to the first narrative, Bzoui inhabitants came to the region over successive periods from different areas. Before the Islamic conquest, the sons of Zounour from the Bzoui Sanhaja tribes arrived in the region, and some of them came in the era of Musa bin Nusayr. Then, Bzoui citizens followed in the subsequent eras until the beginning of the Alawite era.

      The second narrative suggests that the textile industry in Bzou originated in the Levant. It reached Morocco and settled in Sijilmasa via the Iraqi and Syrian traders in the middle of the second century of hijra. It then flourished with the arrival in Morocco of the Arab Banu Hilal in the seventh century hijra.

      Sobia is drink of choice in Ramadan
      Published — Saturday 19 July 2014


      “I will really miss drinking sobia now that Ramadan is coming to an end.”
      This was the lament from Hassan Al-Amoudi, a local resident, here recently. “It is the main drink at the dinner table during Ramadan at our house. I usually drink it as soon as I hear the call for prayer.”
      Al-Amoudi typically buys between four and five large bags of sobia for his family of eight, many of whom are addicted to the drink in Ramadan. “Sobia has a lot of health benefits,” he said.
      "For example it helps relax and calm the nerves, and is considered one of the main traditions for many during this blessed month.”
      Khaled Al-Khodr, who has been selling sobia for more than 20 years, said he usually prepares it at home with the help of his wife and daughter right after Dhuhr prayer.
      The drink is prepared inside large containers and sold starting after Asr prayer. “On average, I usually sell between 100 and 150 bags a day, which can sometimes increase to 200 bags toward the end of Ramadan.” He said one bag costs SR8, depending on the type.
      Meanwhile, the municipality has cracked down on those preparing the drink without licenses. Inspectors from the municipality in Al-Jamaa’ Al-Far’iya discovered people without work permits who had prepared 1,000 bags and 28 large barrels of the drink.
      Hassan Ghoneim, head of the municipality, said: “Inspectors found quantities that were clearly rotten, while the location itself did not comply with basic health and hygiene standards. The workers lacked personal hygiene and were working without any health or legal papers.”

      Ramadan – the 18-hour fast that keeps the faithful coming back for more
      For Muslims, the annual ritual is more than a spiritual 5:2 diet – it's a unifying way to take stock of how they are living
      Zoe Williams
      The Guardian, Friday 11 July 2014 20.31 BST


      'It was really busy last year. It might be a bit less so this year. I think it's the World Cup." Fatima showed me the women's prayer room of the Harrow Central Mosque, a massive building, nine years in the making. Its domed room at the top has a scaffold tower in the middle, the last trace of building work. "There is no religious significance to the scaffolding," said Nadeem, the operations manager. "We're just waiting for one light. If you know anybody who wants to donate a six metre light ..."

      The mood, at 8.46pm on Thursday, is giddy. Bushra, here with her five-month-old daughter Zahrah, says: "It's really buzzing. It's hard to describe, nobody's eating, but there's so much energy." Iftar, the breaking of the fast, is at 9.23. Prayers start five minutes before that. People start filing in from 9pm. Anything that is counted down in one-minute increments (racing; train travel) makes you feel excited.

      That's just the human condition. But when it finally comes to it, and the dua (supplications) has been said, and the food is in front of everyone, and the milk the colour of Pepto-Bismol has been poured, the only people who seem hungry are the kids who weren't fasting anyway. Everybody else has fasted themselves full.

      "As soon as you break your fast, you usually do it with one date and water," Bushra said. "But after that, you don't feel hungry. You spend all day thinking, I'm going to eat this, I'm going to eat that ... There's a saying in Punjabi, you can't fill your eyes."

      "We have that!" I yell, way too loud. One of the things about being raised an atheist is that I can never work out how loud you should talk in religious buildings; as a general rule, if you're wondering, be less loud.

      "The human body is capable of a lot. Many people go without food for many, many days. This is just a few hours," said Nadeem, modestly not mentioning that 3am til 9pm is actually 18 hours. It is a unifying time, which makes the mood generous. "No matter what your beliefs might be Islamically, everybody fasts," Bushra said. Fatima said later: "The religious element is very clear. You fast. These are the times. Obviously there's a wisdom in that."

      And there's more to fasting than not eating. "It's about trying to be a better person, praying more frequently," Nadeem said. "Praying more frequently. When I'm fasting, I realise all the errors I'm making. It's a total stock take. It's a fast for the eyes and the ears as well, so you don't look at things you shouldn't be looking at, or hear things you shouldn't be hearing."

      Shaykh Rahim converted/reverted to Islam 20 years ago and now runs the mosque's education programme. ("20 years ago, it would have been unheard of, for a revert to run the education programme," Bushra said later. I thought she meant it critically, but it turned out she was married to Rahim). "It's really a training of the spirit," he said.

      "If you can avoid these basic things, it then enables you to address your bad attitude, your anger or your desire, or whatever comes over you. You develop your willpower and it's those things that really transform you, morally and ethically."

      We headed downstairs, via a room full of wires, where Nadeem wanted to show me the nerve centre of their air conditioning system. The windows close automatically when they sense rain, and can be remotely operated by an iPhone on a different continent. I always mock a neophile, but it's only because I'm jealous of all their fancy stuff.

      The two ground floor prayer rooms were filling up, although with food in the way, it wasn't the sea of people there would be later, when the service starts at 11pm.

      The prayers said in the moments before the breaking of the fast, the dua, have a special resonance. "In the few minutes before the fast is broken, that's when God accepts your fast," Fatima said. So what are they praying for? "You ask for forgiveness. You ask for God's mercy. You ask for good health. You ask to be a better person. Over the years, it's been on auto. It's like a shopping list, where you buy the same thing every week," Bushra said, pragmatically.

      She added later that people misunderstand who Muslims are. "They think we're an alien species, we don't have a sense of humour, we don't have careers, we don't want normal things."

      "It is amazing, really, how much time Ramadan gives you," Fatima said. "You don't have to have breakfast, you don't have to have lunch. You don't have to think about dinner. The evenings seem so long. You should try it. It's not that different from the 5:2 diet."

      Canada Muslim Athletes Take Ramadan Test
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Thursday, 10 July 2014 00:00


      HAMILTON – Abstaining from food and water for 15 hours a day, Hamilton Muslim basketball players are taking the challenge of observing the holy fasting month of Ramadan while keeping their high performance in basketball local tournaments.

      “For me, it’s not a question,” Brian Beauvais, president of Hamilton Muslim Basketball Association, told CBC Hamilton on Wednesday, July 9.

      “If you choose not to fast, it’s between you and God — but I’m not taking that chance.”

      Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in Ganada on Saturday, June 28.

      In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

      The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

      Beauvais is one of the Muslim players who participated in a team in the Positive Productions basketball tournament in Mississauga at the end of June.

      For him and the team’s starting guard Hamid Nassek, fasting meant no food and no water from dawn to dusk.

      During the tournament, the team played seven matches in a day, only one of them came after sunset.

      “The hardest part is not being able to drink any water,” Beauvais said. “It’s really a shock to the system.”

      “Saying we were quite thirsty would be an understatement. By the end I was totally drained. Really tired.”

      Yet, he added that the intensity of the experience really helps with self-discipline, helping Muslims to share the feelings of the poor.

      “It helps us understand the plight of the underprivileged. We understand it a little more,” Beauvais said.

      The same Ramadan challenge has faced Muslim players in the running World Cup in Brazil.

      Seeing the participation of a huge number of Muslim stars in different European and African teams, analysts have raised many questions on the Muslim players ability to fast while playing with their teams.

      But Beauvais says even on one of the world’s biggest sporting stages, there’s still only one option that he would be comfortable with.

      “Even in something like that, sports has to be secondary,” he said.

      “Nothing else can be as important.”

      Ramadan adds an off-field challenge for World Cup’s Muslim athletes
      Janet Tappin Coelho | June 27, 2014


      Ramadan in Sweden with no dusk, no dawn
      During summer, the sun never sets in Sweden's northernmost town, posing challenges for Muslims observing the holy month.
      Cajsa Wikstrom Last updated: 07 Jul 2014 20:37


      Kiruna, Sweden - During this year's holy month of Ramadan, when consumption of food and water is prohibited between dawn and dusk, how do Muslims observing the fast manage in the far north of Scandinavia, where the sun never sets?

      An estimated 700 Muslims are spending Ramadan in the mining town of Kiruna, located 145km north of the Arctic Circle and surrounded by snowcapped mountains throughout the summer. Many of them are recent asylum seekers, sent to Kiruna while their claims are processed.

      The sun stays up around the clock from May 28-July 16, which constitutes half of the fasting period this year.

      "I started Ramadan by having suhoor with the sun shining in my eyes at 3:30 in the morning," said Ghassan Alankar from Syria, referring to the meal just before dawn.

      "I put double curtains in my room and still, there's light when I'm going to sleep."

      Since there is no central authority in Sunni Islam that could issue a definite religious ruling, or fatwa, Muslims in the north are using at least four different timetables to break the fast.

      Alankar sticks to Mecca time, Saudi Arabia, "because it's the birthplace of Islam". But he is worried about whether his fast will be accepted by God.

      "I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing," said Alankar, who arrived in Kiruna seven months ago after a hazardous journey via Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece. "Only when I'm in God's house, if I make it to heaven, I will know."

      No dusk, no dawn

      The start of Ramadan is determined by the sighting of the new moon, which moves about 11 days back in the Gregorian calendar each year. About every 33 years, Ramadan falls at the same time.

      A majority of those who fast in Kiruna follow the timings of the capital Stockholm, 1,240km further south, after being advised by the European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR), a Dublin-based private foundation composed of Islamic clerics.

      "In Stockholm, there's day and night," Hussein Halawa, secretary-general of the council, told Al Jazeera, explaining the decision. He was personally invited to northern Sweden from Dublin this year to experience the lengthy daylight and give advice.

      Idris Abdulwhab, from Eritrea, follows the ECFR fatwa, which means his longest period of fasting will be 20 hours.

      "Zero, 15, 25 or 45 hours, it doesn't matter as long as you believe in what you're doing," he said. "But we're human beings; of course it's hard sometimes."

      One of those who has chosen to fast according to the local prayer times listed online is Fatima Kaniz. In a homely apartment overlooking mountains and mining facilities, she prepares a Pakistani fast-breaking dinner, or Iftar, for 8:30pm as the persistent sun penetrates the window blinds. Oil sizzles in a pan as she drops in pakoras, a vegetable snack made with chickpea flour.

      She recalls her first day in Kiruna five years ago, in June.

      "I waited for the sun to go down so I could pray maghreb," she said, referring to the sunset prayer. "I waited until 3am, until my Chinese roommate at the asylum centre found me and explained it was pointless to wait. I thought, 'What kind of strange place is this?'"

      The fare of the day consists of the Pakistani Ramadan staples chapati and pakoras served with raita, with the addition of Swedish fish fingers and lentil stew.

      During two-thirds of Ramadan, following the Kiruna prayer times means that Kaniz fasts for about 18 hours. But due to the sun's movements, she will fast for a whole 23 hours during one of those days.

      "I live in Kiruna, and I pray according to Kiruna time all year round. Why should I change this during Ramadan and suddenly follow Stockholm?" she asked.

      She followed the same system during four previous Ramadans - the last one also at the height of summer.

      "Sometimes I got tired and took the bus home from work instead of walking, but otherwise, I felt fine," she said. "But I looked at the clock many times."

      The weather in Kiruna varies widely during the summer months. Within a day, 25 degrees Celsius and sunshine can turn into 10 degrees and pouring rain.

      December Ramadan: Perpetual darkness

      When Ramadan falls in December, however, Muslims will face the opposite of midnight sun: polar night. For two weeks, the sun does not rise above the horizon.

      "Why don't they come to me to ask about Ramadan then?" asks Halawa of the ECFR. He said a conference will be held later this year to issue a winter timetable for both fasting and prayers.

      Muslim prayer times also follow the sun - which means that during winter, all five prayers can fall within a time span of two hours.

      Abdulnasser Mohammed, of Somali origin, was new to Sweden and Kiruna the last time Ramadan fell under the Midwinter night, in 2000.

      "There was no really established Islamic organisation at the time, or information on the internet. I had to make up my own rules", he said. "I fasted for about five hours."

      Mohammed, who is now the chairman of the Islamic association in Kiruna, follows the fasting times of Istanbul in the summer, since Turkey is the Muslim country closest to Sweden.

      But he explains, in his view, everyone is free to choose.

      "Islam isn't rigorous," he said. "Ramadan is not about starvation or about inflicting injury on yourself. People must choose what works for them."

      Apart from the Syrians, who have fled the war in their homeland, Eritreans form the largest Muslim community in Kiruna.

      Hawa Fidel and Alia Hassen host a plentiful Iftar at Stockholm's fast-breaking time, 10:10pm, in the apartment they share. They have prepared seating on the floor and filled trays with sponge-like injera flatbread, spicy beef stew, pastries, and other traditional Eritrean food.

      The men chatting in the living room are already planning their next communal meal. They have set up a system to share the costs fairly, with participants paying different amounts depending on their incomes. Some have jobs. Others, whose applications for asylum have been rejected, get by on a monthly $200 grant provided by the government.

      "Eating together with friends remind me of Eritrea," said Fidel, who is still waiting for permanent residency after living in Kiruna for three years. But she misses going to a mosque for tarawih, the special prayers at night during which long portions of the Quran are recited.

      The Muslim community in Kiruna is using a hall in an apartment block as a mosque, but so far it is only open for Friday prayers.

      On the first Friday of Ramadan, as the rain trickled down, about 40 men and four women, including Fidel, gathered there at Stockholm's dhuhr prayer time.

      Safwaan al-Taieb, who used to do the call to prayer in his neighbourhood mosque in Syria's Deraa before he fled the country last year, recited a melodious adhan.

      Al-Taieb's sister came with him to Sweden, but because she fasts according to Mecca timings and he Stockholm, they do not eat together.

      Besides the rest of the family, he said the social nature of Syrian society is what he misses the most - during Ramadan and the rest of the year.

      "In Syria, you don't eat only with your family. Everyone is welcome, we bring plates of food to our neighbours, we invite others. If you do that with Swedish people, they think you're crazy."

      "Next Ramadan, God willing, I'll be back in Syria."

      Ramadan: A centuries-old American tradition
      Many forget that the first Muslims to celebrate Ramadan in America were African slaves.
      Last updated: 28 Jun 2014 11:09


      This weekend marks the beginning of Ramadan. Nearly one-fourth of the world will observe the annual fast and eight million Muslims in the United States will abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month. A gruelling task at any time of the year, Ramadan this year will be especially daunting during the long and hot summer days.

      Islam in America is rapidly expanding. It is the fastest-growing religion in the nation, and the second most practiced faith in twenty states. These demographic shifts prompted a prominent Los Angeles-based imam to comment, "Ramadan is a new American tradition." The cleric's forward-looking pronouncement marks Islam's recent arrival in the US. However, this statement reveals a pathology afflicting a lot of Muslim Americans today - an inability to look back and embrace the opening chapters of Muslim American history written by enslaved African Muslims.

      Social scientists estimate that 15 to 30 percent, or, "[a]s many as 600,000 to 1.2 million slaves" in antebellum America were Muslims. 46 percent of the slaves in the antebellum South were kidnapped from Africa's western regions, which boasted "significant numbers of Muslims".

      These enslaved Muslims strove to meet the demands of their faith, most notably the Ramadan fast, prayers, and community meals, in the face of comprehensive slave codes that linked religious activity to insubordination and rebellion. Marking Ramadan as a "new American tradition" not only overlooks the holy month observed by enslaved Muslims many years ago, but also perpetuates their erasure from Muslim-American history.

      Between Sunnah and slave codes

      Although the Quran "[a]llows a believer to abstain from fasting if he or she is far from home or involved in strenuous work," many enslaved Muslims demonstrated transcendent piety by choosing to fast while bonded. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, enslaved Muslims held holy month prayers in slave quarters, and put together iftars - meals at sundown to break the fast - that brought observing Muslims together. These prayers and iftars violated slave codes restricting assembly of any kind.

      For instance, the Virginia Slave Code of 1723 considered the assembly of five slaves as an "unlawful and tumultuous meeting", convened to plot rebellion attempts. Every state in the south codified similar laws barring slave assemblages, which disparately impacted enslaved African Muslims observing the Holy Month.

      Therefore, practicing Islam and observing Ramadan and its fundamental rituals, for enslaved Muslims in antebellum America, necessitated the violation of slave codes. This exposed them to barbaric punishment, injury, and oftentimes, even death. However, the courage to observe the holy month while bonded, and in the face of grave risk, highlights the supreme piety of many enslaved Muslims.

      Ramadan was widely observed by enslaved Muslims. Yet, this history is largely ignored by Muslim American leaders and laypeople alike - and erased from the modern Muslim American narrative.

      Rewriting the history of Ramadan in the US

      Muslim America was almost entirely black during the antebellum Era. Today, it stands as the most diverse Muslim community in the world. Today African Americans comprise a significant part of the community along with Muslims of South Asian and Arab descent. Latin Americans are a rapidly growing demographic in the community, ensuring that Muslims in America are a microcosm of their home nation's overall multiculturalism.

      In the US today, Ramadan dinner tables are sure to include staple Arab or Pakistani dishes. Yet, many Muslim Americans will break the fast with tortas and tamales, halal meatloaf and greens. Muslim diversity in the US has reshaped Ramadan into a multicultural American tradition. The breadth of Muslim America's racial and cultural diversity today is unprecedented, making this year's Ramadan - and the Ramadans to follow - new in terms of how transcultural and multiracial the tradition has become.

      This Muslim American multiculturalism comes with many challenges: Namely, intra-racism, Arab supremacy, and anti-black racism prevents cohesion inside and outside of American mosques. These deplorable trends perpetuate the erasure of the Muslim slave narrative. Integrating this history will not only mitigate racism and facilitate Muslim American cohesion, but also reveal the deep-rootedness of the faith, and its holiest month, on US soil.

      This Ramadan honouring the memory of the first Muslim Americans and their struggle for freedom and sharing their story with loved ones at the iftar table, seems an ideal step towards rewriting this missing chapter of Muslim American history into our collective consciousness.

      Muslims in Greater New Haven, across the world observe Ramadan
      By Shahid Abdul-Karim, New Haven Register
      POSTED: 06/29/14, 7:08 PM EDT


      NEW HAVEN >> Patrick Robertson fasted for the first time last year during the holy month of Ramadan.

      Robertson, 53, a small business contractor, said his biggest challenge was getting up and eating before 3 a.m.

      But this year his focus will be reading the entire Quran and building bonds with other Muslims in Greater New Haven.

      “Last year, I felt like I overcame anything that seemed impossible,” said Robertson, who converted to the Islamic faith last year.

      “Just the fact of not being able to have a meal for several hours and to remain upbeat and strong, was an awareness that the inner self and mind are powerful things we sometimes take for granted,” he said.

      Since becoming a Muslim, Robertson said studying Islam has given him a humble approach toward life and an eager desire to continue to help the less fortunate.

      The past two days has seen Muslims worldwide begin the annual spiritual cleansing of fasting, a commandment by God in the Quran.

      The first day of fasting for some Muslims began Saturday, while other Muslims started Sunday.

      For the next 29 or 30 days, healthy Muslims will partake in fasting during daylight hours, abstaining from food, drink and sexual activity until sunset.

      The month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year of which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

      According to Islamic teachings, the month was named because it originally fell in the height of summer with days of intense heat.

      Muslims fasting and living in the hot desert undergo the sensations of burning in the stomach from the extreme thirst caused by the heat of the desert.

      The month gradually rotates backward through all seasons and months so the Muslim experiences the discipline of fasting under all kinds of conditions and in all seasons.

      Muslims who are fasting for the month are gradually burning their sins.

      Fasting during summer months is challenging for Muslims, particularly when the fast is 16 to 17 hours a day.

      Personal fit trainer Mubarakah Ibrahim noted drinking plenty of water before and after the fast is essential for hydration.

      “We spend most of our alert hours not drinking anything. Water is an essential part of a healthy diet even when you are fasting,” Ibrahim said, who owns Balance Fitness Studio at 370 Davenport Ave.

      “Dehydration is often misinterpreted as hunger. Break the fast, then drink two large glasses of water before you eat your iftar meal,” Ibrahim said, who was invited last year by the White House to attend an iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan hosted by President Barack Obama.

      Iftar is the evening meal after breaking fast.

      “Eat slowly, consciously and with intent to eat for nourishment, not to satisfy your hunger and cravings,” Ibrahim said.

      Connecticut Council on American Islamic Relations Executive Director Mongi Dhaouadi said Connecticut Muslims are joining more than 1 billion Muslims around the globe observing Ramadan.

      “We call on our community to reach out to friends and neighbors and invite them to share the experience of Ramadan by breaking fast together and engaging in meaningful dialogue on shared values and common practices.” Dhaouadi said.

      “We also urge Muslims to drink plenty of fluids and consult their doctors regarding useful health tips to make sure we perform our religious duties without putting our health at risk,” he said. “As a reminder, Islam gives permission to those who are sick or unfit ... to donate to the needy instead.” As the fast extends over the whole month, Muslims are disciplined to read a thirtieth of the Quran each day to complete the reading over the 30-day period.

      In addition to reading the entire Quran, Muslims are obligated to increase charitable deeds.

      Talib Shareef, resident Imam of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, D.C., said during the month Muslims should be conscious of the state of human affairs.

      “The longer days gives us the opportunity to maximize our time for study and to be connected to the world around us,” said Shareef, a retired Air Force veteran.

      “Ramadan is a time for us to reflect and become involved on the local, national and international level and to join causes to maximize our individual resources that God has given us,” he said.

      “People are making decisions that affect our environment; there are always things we can complain about when we’re not involved,” he said.

      In a statement Friday from the White House Press Secretary’s Office, President Barack Obama extended his best wishes to Muslims communities in America on the beginning of Ramadan.

      Since taking office, the president has welcomed Muslim Americans across the United States to the White House for iftar dinner.

      “Now at the highest level of our nation, they are recognizing the diversity and contributions that Muslims are bringing to our nation,” said Shareef, who attended the White House Iftar diner with Obama in 2011 and 2012.

      “The White House iftar is one way the president is paying tribute to America’s ideals of life, liberty and happiness,” he said.

      Robertson’s advice to new converts is: “Never lose your identity or try take on someone’s culture that is not your own.”

      27 Foods To Eat At Suhoor That Release Energy Throughout The Day During Ramadan
      Even if breakfast comes before dawn, it’s still the most important meal of your day. Drink two glasses of water at every suhoor and follow these tips.
      posted on June 28, 2014, at 3:02 p.m.