by Samina Mohammad
Since I live in a college town in Indiana, Ramadan and Eid is the time when my community comes together to help the college students feel part of a family. The mosque has daily iftars for them and each family would be responsible for cooking for a particular day. We have about 15 families that contribute and the MSA brothers come to our houses to pick up the food to distribute for iftar. Two of the days is designated to community iftars, so a family would host the iftar for the whole community usually at a banquet hall, hotel or even a high school gymnasium.
During the day, I remember my mom preparing/cooking for iftar and she always would have the Taleem ul-Quran (tafseer/explantion of the surahs) by Dr. Farhat Hashmi (an urdu scholar who is masha’Allah amazing) played as much as possible, mostly in preparation of what we would be reciting in taraweeh that night. My dad would have me and my brother prepare mini khaterahs to give after asr prayer – mostly it was from Riyad ul Saliheen. Even to this day, he still makes my brother do it or if I’m home, I have to do it. As a family we set a goal to read the entire Qur’an and compete to see who will finish it first, but every year it’s the same person: my mama!
At the time of breaking our fast, we have dates and a drink called Rooh Afza. This drink is the one thing you will find at many Indo-Pak homes during Ramadan. As for snacks or meals, we have a dish called pakoras served with mint chutney, fruit chaat (spicy fruit salad), dahiy baray (which is basically soft dumplings made out of lentils in yogurt), and samosas (stuffed fried pastry either with beef or potatoes, and/or cutlets).
Indo-Pak folks have this thing called “Chand Raat” (Night of the New Moon) the day before Eid (last night of Ramadan) where all the females get together and prepare for Eid and apply mehndi (henna) on their hands. Usually we have the “Chand Raat” at my house for Eid al-Fitr. I always grew up with having “Chand Raat” to prepare for Eid, like the goodie bags for the kids, working on last minute carnival stuff.
On the day of the Eid, we would get up early to get ready. We always wear new clothes (it’s not Eid unless we get new clothes). I usually wear a traditional Indo-Pak outfit with a matching abaya over it. If there was a time that my family got on each other’s nerves it would on the morning of Eid –trying to get everyone to prayer on time, figuring out how many cars to take to Eid prayer, asking why is this not ironed, etc.
Before going to prayer, my mom would make us eat seviyan (vermichelli noodles) and dates. It is of the Sunnah to eat an odd number of dates before going to pray Salatul Eid. The Prophet (saws) would not go out on the day of Ed al-Fitr without eating and odd number of dates (Bukhari).
My community does not pray Eid at our Masjid, instead we pray outside in an open field (during the summers/spring) or in gymnasium (during the winter months), as it is Sunnah to pray outside for the Eid prayer unless you are in Makkah (there, Eid prayer is at Masjid Ul-Haram). After Eid prayer, we usually greet one another and take pictures. My friends and I take our traditional Eid pictures, which we’ve been taking since we were 5-7 years old, and then we take one with our families.
After that, we have a mini award ceremony for the Ramadan volunteers to show our appreciation for their hard work and dedication in making the month of Ramadan successful. Then we have our community breakfast along with a carnival for the kids. My friends and I usually never stay for that and instead go to our favorite place: Ihop (when you live in a college town, there are not that many choices). After that, my family has our typical brunch/lunch gathering for all the single students, mostly for the brothers, so I’m there to help my mom out. After they all leave, we usually take a nap or we open our Eid gifts. In the evening, we have a community Eid dinner where we reserve a restaurant or a banquet hall.
So all in all, Ramadan and Eid is like major family bonding time!
*Al-Talib has asked its staff and readers to share their Ramadan traditions, experiences or memories with us. If you would also like to share what makes Ramadan special for you, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ramadan Mubarak!