Ramadan Kareem!

Abdi Iftin | March 8, 2024

As Ramadan begins, the gentle ping of text messages bearing wishes of Ramadan Kareem signals the imminent arrival of this sacred month. As I write this piece, my phone has nearly fifty messages of Ramadan wishes from friends around the world. A reminder of what Ramadan is to many of us: connections and checking on friends and family. I am lucky; I have the privilege to connect with family and friends thousands of miles away and wish them Ramadan Kareem.

Reflecting on my upbringing in Mogadishu, Ramadan was not just a time for prayer and worship; it was a vibrant celebration that brought our entire community together. Distant families visited and stayed over, the mosques in the neighborhoods would overflow with worshippers as we stood in rows, engrossed in Taraweeh or Tahajjud prayers late into the night. In Mogadishu, the towering minarets of the mosques punctuated the skyline, and the melodious call to prayer echoed through the streets every four hours.

Since moving to the U.S., the tranquility of the Maine nights and the scattered community evoke nostalgia for the communal fasting I experienced growing up. I miss the bustling energy of the mosques during prayers and the haunting call of the Azan. I miss walking down the roads in crowds cheering Ramadan Kareen to anyone we saw. Ramadan, to millions around the world, is more than just a religious observance; it’s a time for forging connections, fostering friendships and embracing values of peace and forgiveness.

This Ramadan, even in the midst of the chilly Maine nights, friends and I have already planned a plethora of activities, including indoor soccer games, card games and movie nights. We have a community dinner at the end of Ramadan that anybody can join. The one last year that I attended was crowded and brought together communities of different faiths, all celebrating the end of Ramadan with stories, prayers and games. My hope is every American town does the same.

Ramadan, for me, has always been synonymous with joy and camaraderie. The idea is to recreate the joyous Ramadans we have always celebrated. So, in the coming days, we will also spend some time sharing stories as we did back home beneath the glow of the Ramadan moon. These stories are often centered around themes of kindness and forgiveness. My mother always emphasized that Ramadan was a training for both the soul and body. Fasting from dawn till dusk, abstaining even from water while doing everything else including playing sports and participating in running and other activities, serves as a test of resilience and discipline.

I’ve experienced Ramadan amidst both war and peace, where the certainty of dinner varied greatly. This Ramadan, my thoughts are with fasting Muslims worldwide, especially those in conflict-ridden regions like Gaza, Sudan and Ethiopia. Having experienced Ramadan amid the chaos of conflict, I’m reminded of the profound resilience and strength exhibited by fasting Muslims.

As we embark on this sacred journey, I invite you to join me and my colleagues at Church World Service in extending warm wishes of Ramadan Kareem to all those fasting around the world, including here in the U.S. May this month be filled with blessings, unity and peace for all.

Abdi Iftin is CWS’ Communications Specialist, Welcoming Communities.