Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
‘A Time to Cleanse’: Somalis Share What Ramadan Means to Them
Sunday, August 04, 2013

Patch went to Minneapolis’ Suuqa Karmel, a popular Somali shopping center, with Hopkins resident Fartun Weli to learn about the importance of Ramadan.

Each day from July 8 through Aug. 7, Mohamed Ismail stops eating before the sun rises. Like other Islamic believers during Ramadan, he endures the heat and everyday challenges without food.

It’s only when the sun sets that he can at last break his fast. He and his loved ones come together for an iftar meal where they enjoy Somali food, family and relief from the hunger they felt throughout the day. Yet that hunger isn’t unwanted.

“As a person, it makes me merciful. You get an easy feeling, comfortable,” Ismail said during a Thursday interview at Minneapolis’ Suuqa Karmel, a popular Somali shopping center. “If you fast, you will feel how the other people feel, the people who do not have anything to eat.”

To many outsiders, Ramadan is all about food—or the lack thereof. But to the devout, including west metro Somalis, the fasting and other rituals are a path to religious growth and holiness.

“It’s a spiritual thing,” said Zahra Hassan. “A lot of people think it’s only about food. … It’s more about you getting closer to God.”

Sawm—or fasting during Ramadan—is one of the five pillars of Islam. Imam Dahir Farah said blessings are multiplied during this time and prayers have extra import.

“God is looking at you directly; there is no in between,” Farah said through a translator.

For those accustomed to hearty lunches throughout the year, fasting can appear hard. But Ali Siyad said he doesn’t find it difficult: “It’s only a few hours to fast, and that’s not a problem.”

Farah described how he feels during each cycle of Ramadan. During the first 10 days, he feels he’s receiving all of God’s kindness. During the second 10 days, he feels God washing his sins away. During the final 10 days, he’s at peace knowing that his sins have been cleansed.
Imam Dahir Farah holds up a book of religious instruction that includes details on how to observe Ramadan.
Imam Dahir Farah holds up a book of religious instruction that includes details on how to observe Ramadan.

But fasting, alone, doesn’t buy God’s blessings, Hassan said. It has to be done with the right heart. Believers must abstain from vices big and small, anything from gossiping to stealing.

Said Farah: “Ramadan is a time to cleanse and create relationships and mend relationships. It’s a month for relationship building.”

Those relationships can be seen in the iftar dinners. Busy families that don’t always have time to sit down together make a point to break their fast together during Ramadan.

People who gather together all bring food, but those who are poor may bring just a single date, Farah said.

“Everybody is welcome. Everybody is fed,” he added.

Believers also care for the less fortunate through the zakat al-Fitr—a charitable contribution at the end of Ramadan, typically paid by the head of household on behalf of other members.

Hopkins resident Fartun Weli said the zakat is a critical part of how American Somalis help those in their native country. Families pool the money and send it back to worthy causes in Somalia, such as a providing food and clothes to students at a small school there.

Said Ismail: “Ramadan makes the whole community come together.”


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