Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Navigating Ramadan in Seattle

Kay McHugh

Children running in the living room, mom in the kitchen cooking up a storm, dad hanging up the star-shaped lights and the Quran playing in the background—this is a typical experience of many  Muslim households who observe the holy month of Ramadan. 

In commemoration of the Quran being revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a time when Muslims dedicate their time to praying and fasting from sunrise to sunset.

Being that Ramadan is a major event celebrated in the Middle East and Asia, some countries have rules and laws that accommodate Muslims so that they can celebrate with their families without being concerned about normal commitments. However, in places where a majority of the population isn’t Muslim, standards for accommodations may vary.

Celebration in the U.S. and other Western countries may come with additional struggles as one observing Ramadan still has to tend to their day-to-day responsibilities. It may be more difficult to break fast on time or have the desired period of prayer. The fatigue may also impact one’s ability to carry out their everyday agenda.

Yet, to Haashim Ameer, the president of the Muslim Student Association, these difficulties are not necessarily the defining aspect of Ramadan. Rather, the spiritual growth during Ramadan is what unifies Muslims.

“They are collective assets of normal Ramadan experiences. You won’t hear too many people talk about ‘Oh it was horrible. The entire month I was struggling to find food,’ because I think in our religion we believe that God blesses us with a special sort of patience,” Ameer said. “On certain days it’s more difficult than others [but] most people leave Ramadan with a sense of contentment.”

This year, Ramadan began March 10 and is expected to conclude on April 9. The exact day is determined by whether the moon is sighted the night before the expected end date. After the final day is another Muslim event—Eid al-Fitr, a celebration to signify the end of Ramadan. 

Both Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr are intimate events often shared with close loved ones and relatives, but sometimes circumstances can prevent celebrations with family.  

For Muslims who don’t have immediate family in the Seattle area, one may have to find a community away from those who feel at home.

Yasser Babaier, a second-year business management major, is an international Muslim student from Saudi Arabia. He highlighted how his experience celebrating Ramadan in the U.S. compared to back home has differed. Babaier is used to observing Ramadan with his family and noted that they have a tradition of visiting different extended family members for breakfast.

Yet, despite being away from his family during Ramadan, Babaier stated that a Muslim community in Seattle feels particularly close-knit and has something special about it. He has been going to several different mosques to meet people.

“It’s kind of a very good experience, and it’s unique when you experience it abroad. [Especially] as a minority in the country, you have this community vibe that is very unique and you don’t find it in Saudi because everyone is the same. It’s really nice,” Babaier said.

The Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), the largest Islamic center in Washington, is committed to creating a welcoming atmosphere that unites Muslims in the Pacific Northwest and helps guide other Muslims interested in diving into their faith.

Alongside local mosques, MAPS is an organization for individuals like Babaier, facilitating spaces for Muslim community engagement by hosting vibrant gatherings. 

Imam Akram Baioumy, the spiritual leader at MAPS’ Seattle location, discussed the opening of a branch of MAPS downtown in response to the number of transplants in the Seattle area. Only having a Redmond location was likely difficult for those commuting on public transit from the heart of the city.

Building a community close to one’s home is important to many, which made MAPS want to expand. 

“Those who did not have a home are now having a home. Those who did not have friends and community before are finding their community now,” Baioumy said. “Downtown Seattle, especially for Muslims, the nightlife and the lifestyle doesn’t cater to a Muslim. Being able to have refuge and connect with God and the way they want in the middle of downtown Seattle is a really beautiful thing.”

For Baioumy, MAPS has been essential during Ramadan in fostering the aspect of community. 

“After a long day taking control of your desires for food and water, controlling your tongue, trying to be more generous, and a full day of just worshiping God to then afterwards break your fast together and continue into a full night of worship. It’s a very beautiful thing,” Baioumy said.

Navigating Ramadan in Seattle can be difficult for some Muslims unfamiliar with the U.S. lifestyle. However, the strong support of the greater Muslim community provides resources and companionship for those adapting to the new environment.

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