As the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, almost two billion Muslims around the world will stay up and pray. In the last ten days, it is believed that on an odd night of this month, Allah began to reveal the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims acknowledge the importance of this revelation by spending nights praying on top of the daily fasts of Ramadan.
While staying up to pray, I admire the beauty of this month: self-sacrifice, devotion, compassion, and most importantly, community. But this month has not been beautiful for everyone. Around the world, Islamic State terrorist attacks have taken too many innocent lives. Attacks in Iran, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Thailand, and most notably in England have filled our news feeds.
These terrorist groups have no regard for sanctity of Ramadan, even though they claim to practice the religion of Islam. I have been raised to believe that this month is a time to center oneself and aim to be a better person everyday. The Islamic State clearly does not believe this as evident by their ongoing murder and hatred during this sacred month.
In my own experience, Ramadan’s greatest reward is the community it creates. When I was 13, I spent the summer with my cousins in Ohio. For one month out of three, we fasted. We stayed up until sunrise worshiping and bonding, and the days were spent reflecting on our daily fasts.
When sunset came, we would drive to the local mosque and break our fasts with fellow Muslims in the area. Coming from Texas, I knew no one other than my family in Ohio, but our regular Iftaars (meals to break the fast) at the mosque allowed me to meet a whole new community of Muslims and befriend them.
During this month, I wish the world could see Ramadan through this lens. I believe that non-Muslims around the world should experience the community that this month creates. Muslims should invite their non-Muslim friends, co-workers, etc. to Iftaars. There is nothing like a good meal to break down barriers. Also, bring some leftovers to school or work. By doing this, hopefully people will start to associate this month with giving and compassion instead of terrorism and hatred.
Muslims are a part of the American fabric. Currently, there are 3.3 million Muslim-Americans, and according the Pew Research Center by 2050 there will be 8.1 million. So, Non-Muslims need to understand and learn to appreciate the peaceful customs of this growing community.
Muslims, especially South Asian Muslims, have a unique culture that the world should learn about. There is no better time to do this than Ramadan. It is our duty to be active members of our community, and increasing understanding between Muslims and Non-Muslims does not have to be difficult.
Peace-loving Muslims today are in a tough situation. On one side, we are surrounded by Islamophobia, and on the other, we have terrorist tarnishing the credibility of our faith. Combating these two extremes can seem exhausting. However, we can actively fight against these in smaller ways by being more transparent.
Invite people over for Iftaar, share your favorite Ramadan memory, invite your friends to try fasting with you. By opening up our mosques and homes to our Non-Muslims neighbors and community members, we can demystify our faith and remove misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. All of these together show our communities that we are compassionate, understanding, and desire for coexistence.