When I reflect on the Ramadans I spent overseas and ask myself why they hold such a high status compared to the Ramadans I spent in the United States, only a few things stand out. It was the amount of people participating in all the various activities associated with Ramadan. Everywhere you went, you would see Ramadan decorations, whether in stores, homes, or on the streets. When you turned on the radio in the taxi, TV at home, or looked at newspapers and advertisements, you would see the words “Ramadan Mubarak” among other celebratory slogans, informing everyone of the blessings of Ramadan. Conversations with everyone would involve the same pleasantries, but now the greetings of Ramadan are incorporated into the pleasantries. Going shopping and seeing stores having sales centered around Ramadan is an experience like no other.
The masjids would be filled to the brim with worshippers, and the nights would be brought to life with the voice of those leading taraweeh and qiyam, along with the voices of children that you wouldn’t normally hear at those hours brightening up the darkness of the night. When you compare this with what I experienced in Seattle during Ramadan, you can quickly see why those Ramadans spent overseas were much better in terms of feeling the Ramadan spirit. No stores had sales, nor were people able to change their schedules to meet the needs of Ramadan. Instead, Ramadan would be changed to meet the needs of the people. Taraweeh would be shortened due to timing conflicts, among other things, but regardless, Ramadan was still something that was enjoyed, and you could feel the spirit during iftar and taraweeh, even if it was being shortened.
Now, when I think of my first Ramadan here in the Bay Area, it had elements that made the Ramadan overseas so special. First, the amount of people participating in Ramadan. Just in my neighborhood alone, being able to see Ramadan decorations on the doors and porches of houses brings a joy that is similar to what I used to feel during the Ramadans I spent overseas. Being able to see the masjid decorated was something I had not seen done while living in Seattle. Just from the decorations in the neighborhood and at the masajids, an atmosphere of Ramadan was created.
Decorations serve a purpose when used, but the atmosphere of Ramadan is more than just decorations. One thing that truly makes Ramadan special that I was not able to find in Seattle is the number of people participating in Ramadan. Seeing thousands of people in the masjid for taraweeh and iftar is something I did not think was possible. Just seeing the masajids buzzing with life throughout the nights, especially on weekends with hundreds of children, is something that until this Ramadan, I thought I could only experience in Muslim lands. The amount of diversity found in the masajids also made this Ramadan stand out. Seeing people from all over the world praying next to each other really highlights one of the strengths of this ummah.
Overall looking back at this Ramadan, the things that will stay with me forever are the sense of community, diversity, and quality of those that led us in prayer in the blessed month. I have not seen such a diverse and large community be able to come together and worship collectively without our difference overshadowing our main purpose which is to worship Allah. This was my first Ramadan in the bay area and I can not wait for the next one and the next one and the next one.
May Allah accept our efforts in the blessed month of Ramadan and forgive us for our shortcomings.
Imam Fuad Mohamed