April 12 marks the beginning of Ramadan.
Woodbury community members of Muslim faith have gathered at the Eastern Twin Cities Islamic Center (ETCIC) for daily prayer, worship, gatherings and more, including the annual celebration of Ramadan, since its inception in 2004. However, this year’s celebration looks a little different.
“[The community] started gathering together around 2004, but we officially became an organization in 2009,” says ETCIC spokesman Irfan Ali. “We moved to a larger space in 2011 … And we moved into the newly built center in Afton, Minn. in 2018.”
Though the ETCIC is a place of gathering for daily worship, it also features an array of learning opportunities, such as Quran recitation and Quran Hifz (memorization) programs. The center also celebrates the annual holy month of Ramadan, which begins April 12 and runs through May 12 this year.
“Ramadan is a month of the lunar calendar, and the change of the start and end of the calendar is an astronomical concept,” says religious coordinator Mustapha Hammida. Because the lunar calendar is usually 29 or 30 days, and is based on the sun/moon rotations, it doesn’t line up with the typical 365-day calendar. So oftentimes there is a 10- to 12-day difference in the calendar.
“This year, Ramadan begins on April 12. So next year, Ramadan will be earlier,” Hammida says.
During the month-long celebration, those of Muslim faith take part in fasting—a period of time from dawn to sunset where all food and water is absent—as well as extra prayers, meditation and reflection.
“A main focus of Ramadan is to show your blessings and what God has given you in your life,” says Woodbury High School student Arif Ansari. “We truly get to see the little blessings and how important those are, including food and water.”
Though the community usually gathers each Friday.
A History of Ramadan
According to National Geographic, the naming of Ramadan stems from the Arabic root “ar-ramad,” which means scorching heat. Muslims believe that in A.D. 610, the Quran, the Islamic holy book, was revealed to Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan. Muslims fast during that month as a way to commemorate the revelation of the Quran. Religious coordinator Mustapha Hammida says it’s a time that Muslims are reminded of their duty to perform fasting, just as nations, messengers and generations before have done.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ramadan and the Muslim culture, check the ETCIC website (etcic.org) for more information regarding their interfaith event.
Saturday and Sunday for worship and breaking fast, they’ve been unable to do so due to COVID-19.
ETCIC member Sofia Muneer says, “COVID has shown another face of Ramadan. [In 2020], we had to stay home with family and not pray with everyone else … But it’s made families closer and has brought more awareness of giving to the community.”
Although the ETCIC’s typical celebrations may look different than years past, Ali says the annual interfaith event, held with the Minnesota Council of Churches, welcomes those of all faith to learn about the Muslim faith and hopes to continue with the event for 2021.
“Ramadan serves as a great icebreaker event for people to get to know each other better,” Ali says. “What we have in common and not in common, and really have that discussion. We would love to share that and we have no hesitancy in having a dialogue about Ramadan and the Muslim culture.”