Local Muslims in Illinois celebrate end of Ramadan

SHAFAQNA - Minutes before morning prayer begins, Quad-City area Muslims young and old quietly remove their shoes and scurry to a spot in the jam-packed Bettendorf mosque.

Almost 1,000 Muslims, some sporting suits and ties, others in their home countries’ traditional dress, fill three separate prayer rooms at the Muslim Community of the Quad-Cities for a special, live broadcast sermon.

Just as quickly as things began, congregants from the three Quad-City area mosques slip their shoes back on and head outside, where rows of pastries and refreshments await.

On Friday, Muslims around the globe celebrated Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan — the Islamic holy month of fasting — and area Muslims, from as many as 30 countries, broke bread together in daylight for the first time since mid-June.

“In terms of happiness, Eid is Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year combined,” Anis Ansari, president of the Clinton mosque, said.

During Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar and one of Islam’s five pillars, Muslims fast and abstain from any food and drink, including water, from sunrise to sundown each day.

Since Ramadan this year began just days before the summer solstice, getting into the rhythm of fasting every day to obtain piety and righteousness posed an extra challenge, said Lisa Killinger, president of the Bettendorf mosque.

“We’ve had to cross over the longest days of the year so it’s been hard,” added Killinger, who also works full-time as a professor at Palmer College of Chiropractic, Davenport.

Because Islam is based on a lunar calendar, the start of Ramadan on the Gregorian calendar varies each year. It usually begins about 10 days earlier than the previous year. It will take almost 10 years for the month-long holiday to return to the shorter days of winter.

After being in the routine of skipping lunch every day, Bettendorf High School graduate Sami Farukui said it felt a “little weird,” to stand in line for food at 9 a.m.

“I always second-guess myself at first before I eat something,” he said.

For many Muslims, including former United Township High School soccer standout Mamadou Ba, staying hydrated during Ramadan can be tough.

“After a few days, 17 hours without food is OK, but going without water is hard,” said Ba, whose family lives in East Moline. “But this is a great day for us.”

In addition to the fast, working professionals also had to strategically schedule naps during the day to combat sleep deprivation, Killinger said.

Throughout the month, many Muslims met at the Moline, Bettendorf and Clinton mosques for late-night meals and evening prayers, which typically ended about midnight, Killinger added.

Traditionally, a Hafiz — someone who has memorized all 30 sections of the Quran — will read through one section each night in hopes of finishing every section of the holy book by the end of the month.

Ansari, who recently was elected chairman of the Department of Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Clinton, said he attempted to fit in post-work naps before evening prayer.

“Your sleep is disturbed, but once you are mentally prepared, the rest becomes very easy,” he added.

Mona Alqulali, a fellow physician in Clinton, said Ramadan does everything but cramp her lifestyle.

“It’s bittersweet when it ends because you’re used to seeing each other every night,” Alqulali added. “One month a year is no big deal.”

Killinger, who grew up in a Christian family in Bettendorf before converting to Islam as a college student in 1979, said she invited Quad-City news media to Friday’s celebration to shine light on the core values of Islam.

“I think that there’s plenty of bad news about Muslims on television and we need to focus on what Muslims are really doing,” she said.

Ramadan also encourages acts of charity, increased worship and abstaining from any bad habits. Specifically, during Ramadan, Muslims with the means to do so must donate 2.5 percent of their savings to those in need.

Killinger estimated local Muslims donated thousands of dollars to local charities, including Churches United of the Quad-Cities Area.

“As long as it goes to feed the hungry or needy, it doesn’t matter if they’re Muslims or non-Muslims,” she said.

Before leaving the mosque for work, Alqulali further explained the importance of fasting during Ramadan.

Just like any other religion, she said, “It’s more about being a good human being.

“God doesn’t care whether you drink or eat, it’s about what morals you pick up along the way.”


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