As Ramadan begins, our readers tell us how they observe the Holy Month.
Today marks the beginning of Ramadan, the Holy Month, in which the world's nearly 2 billion Muslims take part in month-long fasting, prayer, reflection and fellowship.
It's undoubtedly a significant and memorable time for those who practice the Muslim faith both on the continent and in the diaspora. Knowing this, we asked our Muslim readers to share how they observe the Holy Month. Many recalled precious memories about time spent with their families, friends and loved ones, others shared the unique foods and traditions they took part in during the time, and described their Eid celebrations.
Folks spoke enthusiastically about what Ramadan means to them, and how it's shaped their faith. "Ramadan really is a month where Muslims are on a spiritual high. It's a month full of reward," says one reader. Read on for more responses.
What traditions do you and your family partake in during Ramadan?
"We all wake up together to eat the morning meal( suhoor) then pray together and read the Quran. When it is time to break our fast (iftar) we also break our fast together and eat together then pray."—Kassoum, Mali.
"Alhamdulillah, my father usually gathered us and invited our neighbors to join us during Iftar (sunset) to eat and drink together after that he lead us in prayer."—Hamza Uba Muhammad, Nigeria
"At the end of each beautiful day my family makes a huge feast we cook puff puffs, chapati, stew, rice, pasta, my favourite mango shakes and more. We sit at the table as a family and share our day."—Aisha,Somalia
"We get together as a family every Iftar, we cook a huge meal which include traditional Eritrean food like injera and sauces and then we break fast together. Afterwards, we go to the local mosque to pray."—Fatuma, Eritrea
"On the day before Ramadan, there is so much excitement. It literally is a buzzing feeling. Ramadan really is a month where Muslims are on a spiritual high. It's a month full of reward; and although it might seem like a 'Starve fest', we are tasked to fast for the purpose of gaining more God consciousness. We learn that if we can leave permissible things like (drinking, eating, intimacy) for a few hours, it is possible for us to leave harmful actions towards ourselves and others too.
Once the sighting of the moon occurs, a pre-dawn meal is prepared beforehand for the following morning. The weeks before Ramadan is when our parents go into 'African parent' mode (as if they ever leave it lol). My mother speaks of stocking up plum tomato cans, rice, onions and juice. But I know she means well. It is always better to be prepared. When the moon is sighted anywhere across the world, the last day before the month of Ramadan, this signals beginning of Ramadan.This first meal we cook for Ramadan tends to be stew with goats meat and bread. After that we head off to the mosque for voluntary night prayers called Taraweeh, to welcome in the month. For 30 nights, during these prayers, the whole Qur'an tends to be reciting. Our observations during Ramadan is based on reciting and pondering over the Qur'an's verses , giving charity, visiting the sick, asking for forgiveness for your selves and others; and listening to religious programming via television, audio or online.
It's an opportunity for me to learn more about my faith. I tend to use it for quiet reflection, spending time in my thoughts. I always try and attend my local mosques where there is an an amazing feeling of community and brotherhood. Personally, I think it's the best bit about Ramadan, simply because I think generally, we are all so used to getting caught up, that we don't always make time for our loved ones.
"We learn that if we can leave permissible things like (drinking, eating, intimacy) for a few hours, it is possible for us to leave harmful actions towards ourselves and others too."
Eid is always a hectic affair. Make no mistake about it. It is not any different from getting ready for a wedding, prom night or any illustrious occasion. And when you live in a house full of women, it is always an interesting affair. We tend to wear our loose traditional and colourful African garments which is consistent with other West African clothing; particularly 'gara'. It is not part of my culture exclusively, but I can at times wear henna and draw henna on my sister's hands. We tend to eat a sweet rice porridge in the morning called 'Pap'. The morning of Eid is one morning I find most intriguing because after thirty days of fasting, when you are not used to eating at a certain time, your body adjusts , so you might not find yourself eating too much to begin with. Following that, I tend to go to my local mosque to perform the Eid prayers to thank God for going through the month. The day is known as Eid-Ul-Fitr, means 'Breaking of the Fast'. After an early lunch of jollof rice and chicken or Egusi soup with pounded yam, I tend to visit my friends or hang out in Eid festivities outside."—Adama Munu, Sierra Leone-Guinea
"I live alone in the UK, so it's a bit harder to fast alone and to not be with my family. Nonetheless it's also a way to be with myself again, to listen to my body, and to be patient. It's a big challenge, but you also end up learning a lot about the power of self-discipline."—Nihal, Morocco
"We always prepare the meal together and eat together and we pray the 5 prayers all together too!"—Yasmina, Morocco
Are there any traditions unique to your culture?
"In my culture during Ramadan we cook different dishes everyday and bring it to the Masjid for the fasting people."—Kassoum
"Yes. Gathering in one house to eat and share in the Ramadan spirit."—Hamza Uba Muhammad
"Definitely the food. Also once we make the food my mom makes extras and we give it to our neighbours non-muslims and muslims. Later when we go to pray I see alot of African women wearing their cultural clothing to pray in and it warms my heart because it takes me right back to Africa."—Aisha
"We wake up around dawn for breakfast, we eat this particular food called Gaat which contains a lot of cardboydrates and there is a long held tradition that tells us if we eat, we won't be hungry until iftar time!"—Fatuma
"We have this tradition in Sierra Leone called 'Sunnahkati'. Lol I don't know what it means linguistically, but it refers to cooking a large meal or meals for your dearest and nearest and it tends to be anything from broths, to plantain, chicken or fried fish. Growing up, I always found that part of Ramadan exciting because it was an opportunity to go and visit friends and family members I had not seen in a long time. There is a saying in our religion that the 'upper hand is better than the lower hand'. That is to say that giving in charity and goodness than receiving it which is what I think 'Sunnakati' represents. Because feeding others and maintaining good relations with our families are seen as good actions, its an opportunity to seek multiple good works and find the value in those things that we take for granted today."—Adama Munu
"A lot of food when it's time for Iftar, the girls put henna on our hands the day before Eid and buy new clothes."—Yasmina
Image via TONL
How do you observe Ramadan and celebrate Eid in your family's home country?
"In Mali Ramadan is very special and unique. It is that time of the year when you get to see your distance relatives and share a meal and prayer with."—Kassoum
Wallahi, Ifeel more peaceful and secure during the holy month of Ramadan. On Eid day me and my family and friends would drive to an amusement park or film house to cheer up—Hamza Uba Muhammad
"We get our henna done and we makes deserts the night before eid and place it on the table the morning of eid and then we go to prayer wearing our new clothes and everybody is just happy. It's a beautiful moment ."—Aisha
"The only time that I have ever observed Eid in my family's home country was when I was abroad filming a documentary. It was quite surreal, but it was amazing seeing so many people partake in Eid. Eid is a national holiday in Sierra Leone as it is a Muslim majority country. It was amazing seeing so many people in the streets praying their Eid prayers which I had never seen before. I was fortunate enough to pray the eid prayer in our National Stadium, which was pretty cool. I met some cool people there too."—Adama Munu
"All families eat and pray together, which is a beautiful way to celebrate this holy month."—Nihal
"We all gather in one house and we give food to the poor."—Yasmina
What does Ramadan mean to you?
"Ramadan means to me to pray and ask for forgiveness. It is that time of the year when family get really tied together."—Kassoum
"A month that I feel I am closer to Allah and His mercies."—Hamza Uba Muhammad
"Ramadan is a very beautiful time and it means alot to me besides the food, it's a time were I get to take advantage of asking for forgiveness and cleansing my soul."—Aisha
"Ramadan means quality time with practicing our religion, quality time with family and friends, and truly getting to the business of becoming a better person in the time of the blessed month."—Fatuma
"Ramadan is the opportunity to know my truest potential on a spiritual plane. That a whole month is devoted to seeking greater awareness of God, show how it is a powerful aspect of Islam; as it adjusts how you look at life and how we should treat ourselves and others"—Adama Munu
"Patience, courage, and generosity."—Nihal
"A moment of peace, a moment where I concentrate on my relationship between God and me, a moment to think about the poor and the orphans"—Yasmina