May 5, 2019 marks the beginning of Ramadan in the U.S., the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Muslims around the world will be preparing for 30 days of restraint, reflection, prayer, and daytime fasting from food and drink.
As sunrise and sunset times differ around the word, Muslims in different parts will have varying lengths of fasting. The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the lengths of fasts around the world, with New Yorkers having to refrain from food and drink for over 16 hours a day during Ramadan.
How Many American Muslims Celebrate Ramadam?
According to Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Muslims in America celebrate Ramadan, with 80 percent saying they fast during the holiday. The research center estimates that there are about 3.45 million Muslims of all ages living in the U.S. in 2017, with 2.1 million being adults.
Its 2017 survey of U.S. Muslims found that more adults fast during Ramadan than pray five times a day or attend mosque weekly. More women fast during Ramadan than wear the traditional hijab hair and neck covering.
How do Muslims celebrate Ramadan?
According to the Koran, "the month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion of right and wrong. And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful."
"This month is made sacred by the event of the Qur'an, which Muslims believe was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during one of the last ten days of Ramadan 1400 years ago, as he meditated in a quiet cave near the town of Mecca," Dr. Homayra Ziad, lecturer, program in Islamic Studies, Johns Hopkins University, told Newsweek.
"Fasting lasts a month based on a verse in the Qur'an that guides the first community around the Prophet Muhammad to fast during Ramadan. Fasting is meant to honor the revelation of the Qur'an.
"In terms of American Muslim traditions, the communal aspects of Ramadan are often a way to collectively organize around issues that are critical to a young and vibrant community."
Ziad said that young American Muslims have come up with "creative ways" to celebrate Iftar (the meal to break fast after sunset), such as gatherings to recgonize protecting communities from Islamophobia.
How to Greet American Muslims During Ramadan
Ramadan comes with its own greetings. Dr. Emilie Zuniga, creator of the Arabic language learning course for Duolingo, provided Newsweek with some phrases that we can all learn during Ramadan.
- "Ramadan kareem" (رمضان كريم), which means "Ramadan is generous"
- You would respond to this with, "Allahu Akram" (الله أكرم) - "God is more generous"
- "Ramadan mubarak" ( رمضان مبارك), which means "Blessed Ramadan"
- You would respond to this with, "Allah yubarek fik/fiki" – "May God bless you" - الله يبارك فيك)
- When you get to eid at the end of Ramadan, you say "Eid mubarak" ("blessed eid" - عيد مبارك)
- You can also use "kull am wa antum bi-kheir" (كل عام وأنتم بخير), which is also commonly used for all holidays and birthdays
Duolingo is working to launch its course in Arabic for July 1, 2019. You can access it here when it's ready.
Special Messages from American Muslims
Hena Khan, author of Amina's Voice and upcoming novel, More To The Story
"It's an honor to see people feature my books in gorgeous Ramadan displays. It thrills me to hear teachers read them during story times and use them to inspire crafts, and I'm grateful parents exchange them as Eid presents and add them to classrooms and library collections.
"But what I still wish for is for what I try to portray through these stories to be widely understood: the idea that Muslims share a common humanity and universal values with other Americans—including a commitment to family, community, and charity.
"I want all Americans to understand that Ramadan is a time for personal reflection, piety, generosity, and a recommitment to faith. It's also marked by traditions, foods, festivities and gifts. We tend to teach the specific details, focusing on what Muslims do that is different or unique.
"This year more than ever, we need to emphasize the spirit of the month and what unites us all. And as American Muslims, while we strive to purify ourselves in thought and deed, I hope more of us will share the beauty of Ramadan with our neighbors, colleagues, schoolmates and friends, whether it's through a story, an invitation, a gift, or a kind gesture.
"In that way, I hope we can make what we believe to be the best of months, even more meaningful this year. Ramadan Mubarak!"
Nailah Lymus, CEO of UNDERWRAPS Agency
"I have been Muslim my entire life and I always look forward to Ramadan. 30 days of fasting (from sunrise to sunset) is a small sacrifice considering there are people starving all over the world.
"The positive impact that it has on my life is priceless. A time to rebuild your closeness with God, fellowship with others and work on improving your character. We often get distracted with the glitz and glam of this society, but during Ramadan your core values are strengthened and reshaped.
"I am ecstatic to begin my fast and of course decorate my house with all the festive Ramadan decor. And on that note Ramadan Mubarak!"
Sayed Saleh Qazwini, Imam and Educator in Michigan
"The purpose of fasting is to create a feeling of God consciousness, or Taqwa, as it is referred to in the Quran. One of the greatest benefits of fasting is that it helps us have greater self control by disciplining us to control our desires.
The month of Ramadan is also a time to care for and empathize with humanity. By feeling the pain of hunger, we are reminded of the hunger and malnutrition that millions have to deal with on a daily basis. While our fasting is by choice, there are millions of people who have no choice but to go hungry due to lack of resources. Therefore, it is incumbent upon every Muslim to give alms to the poor (Zakat) on the day of Eid at the end of the holy month.
"It is also the season to connect with family and friends, as many Muslims gather with relatives and break the fast together. It is an opportunity to reach out to our non Muslim friends and invite them to eat with us and celebrate all the blessings from above.
"Finally, the month of Ramadan is a season of spirituality and the Quran. Muslims gather in mosques to pray together and worship throughout the holy month. Within the month of Ramadan is the Night of Destiny which Muslims take as an opportunity to pray to God to change their destiny for the better.
"I congratulate all Muslims on the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan. Let us take advantage of this month by having more self control, thinking of the needy, connecting with our relatives, and feeding our souls by increasing our spirituality."
Karuna Riazi, author of The Gauntlet and upcoming novel, The Battle
"It is hard to believe—at this particularly tense time to be an American Muslim—that a month in which we fast from daybreak to sundown can be a sanctuary. But I want you to know and take heart in the fact that it is a sanctuary.
"I hope you take this month - where, the world over, people like you look down at empty, waiting plates and stand together in prayer - as a month where you can feel safe, seen and loved through shared tradition and warmth. Even as our sacred spaces are challenged and our bodies placed in jeopardy, I hope your community closes ranks around you and remind you why you, your voice and experience matter and make us as a faith that much richer for your presence.
"Ramadan Mubarak and a safe and peaceful month to all."