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Ramadan helps Arlington family honor religious, family traditions

In the foreground is a wall with a calendar hanging on it that reads "Ramadan Mubarek." In the background, two women with head scarves stand in a kitchen.
Marissa Greene
/
Fort Worth Report
Fouzia Syed (left) and her daughter clean up in the kitchen after breakfast. Syed’s family has breakfast before sunrise as part of Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, which Muslims observe with prayer, reflection and fasting from food and water from sunup to sundown.

Hours before sunrise, Reaz Rahman’s Arlington household is already in full swing.

The family starts the morning together with a prayer. Rahman gets dressed and eats breakfast before 6 a.m. His wife, Fouzia Syed, and their three daughters sit at the dining room table drinking smoothies and eating roti — a type of flatbread — for breakfast. Shortly afterward, the children help Syed tidy up in the kitchen as Rahman prepares for work.

Before continuing their day, Rahman and his daughters gather again in the living room, just before dawn, for fajr, one of the five daily prayers practiced in the Islamic faith.

From early March until early April, Rahman’s family is observing Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which Muslims observe with prayer, reflection and fasting from food and water from sunup to sundown.

As children, Rahman and Syed learned about the importance of Ramadan from their parents, Syed said. Although it was spring break for Rahman and Syed’s daughters, their family continued to start and end the day together as a way to teach and pass down the traditions of their faith to their family.

“It’s very important that they see it,” Rahman said. “Children don’t just learn by hearing but by seeing.”

Four people bow in a living room with prayer mats at their feet.
Marissa Greene
/
Fort Worth Report
Reaz Rahman (left) and his daughters gather in the living room to start the day with fajr, one of the five daily Islamic prayers that takes place before sunrise.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic or lunar calendar and a time when Muslims fast, reflect and give back. Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, engaging in sexual relations, smoking and having ill thoughts for 30 days from dawn to dusk.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with reciting prayers five times a day, giving charity to the poor, confessing that there is only one God and taking a pilgrimage to Mecca (Islam’s holiest city) at least once during one’s lifetime.

Since the Islamic faith follows a lunar calendar, the dates that Ramadan is observed shift each year, with the observance beginning at the sighting of a crescent moon, according to Religion News Service. For the global Muslim community, Ramadan may start on different days depending on whichmethod is used to determine the start of the month.

Rahman considers Ramadan to be almost like a spiritual boot camp or exercise rather than a holiday because it’s a time for Muslims to emphasize reading the Quran, engaging in prayer and setting good intentions for the future.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and is a three-day celebration in the Islamic faith.

“The idea is that all these exercises we do — wake up early, do prayers, eat together — we do this because those are exercises we want to make sure we understand and we are doing this to get closer to God,” Rahman said.

Back at the family’s home, the rest of their Friday continues; Rahman starts his day at work, the children go upstairs to read and Syed thinks about the noodle dish she wants to prepare for her mosque’s potluck that evening.

Later that afternoon, Rahman and Syed visit the Bait-ul-Qayyum mosque in Fort Worth. The two attend jumʿah, an afternoon prayer service that happens on Fridays, which are considered holy days in Islam.

A group of women with head coverings sit in a room gathered together.
Marissa Greene
/
Fort Worth Report
Fouzia Syed prays in the women’s worship room at the Bait-ul-Qayyum mosque in Fort Worth during the March 15 jumʿah service.

Although many Muslims fast during Ramadan, there are some exceptions, Syed says. For instance, children and the elderly are excused from participating in the fast, as are people with certain medical conditions or who are pregnant, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Syed also tries to be mindful of navigating Ramadan while working long, physically active hours as a nurse.

“If I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my energy up, there are days that I can skip, but I would have to make up that fast at the end or at a later time,” Syed said.

In the evening, Rahman and Syed’s family head back to the mosque for evening prayers as well as iftar, a meal taken at sundown to break the fast during Ramadan.

Sitting at tables spread across the gymnasium, the men at the mosque catch up and talk about what their fasting experience was like that day. At sundown, Rahman and others start iftar by eating dates, a longstanding tradition during Ramadan.

“One thing I think you will find common in most Islamic communities for Muslims is breaking the fast with dates. That has to do with the Holy Prophet, because he used to break his fast with dates, so we show our love for him by following his examples,” Rahman said.

Although fasting is only one part of observing Ramadan, it translates to other pillars of the Islamic faith by being appreciative of what you have and helping those who have less, Syed said.

“At the end of the day, you are getting a meal, which a lot of people are not. So, you end up giving more to charity to help those in need,” Syed said.

Marissa Greene is a Report for America corps member, covering faith for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at marissa.greene@fortworthreport.org or @marissaygreene. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Marissa Greene is a Report for America corps member and covers faith in Tarrant County for the Fort Worth Report.