Muslims unite in Ramadan prayer

by Jake Kapsner

Shoeless men stood shoulder to shoulder reciting the scriptures of Islam in the corner of a carpeted room at Dar Al-Farooq, a community center near 17th and Como avenues southeast.
Heads bowed, these Muslim men of many countries, many colors and one God, faced Mecca on Monday evening — as they do every day — for one of five daily prayers.
This is a special time for Muslims, explained Abdulrahman Al-Dawood, one of Dar Al-Farooq’s 10 coordinators and a University graduate.
During the last 10 days of Ramadan, a Muslim holy month of fasting which began Dec. 17 and ends Jan. 17th, an optional prayer is added to each day’s five mandatory ones, called the Taraweeh.
For a religion that emphasizes the merits of moderation, the special prayer might appear excessive to non-Muslims. It begins at about 2 a.m. and ends at 5 a.m.
Nehrwr Abdul-Wahid, an American who coordinates student development programs at the University’s Diversity Institute, has come to the center with his three daughters for six months.
He joined the roughly 90 people who arrive here after sunset daily, and took the day off from work Tuesday to pray the Taraweeh Monday night.
The Fajl, or fast, that occurs from sunup to sundown during Ramadan primarily means no food or sex, said Ayman Abdel-Samad, a University doctoral candidate in electrical engineering and fellow coordinator.
Abdel-Samad said Allah rewards more for good deeds, including prayer and reading the Koran, during the ninth month of the lunar year.
“In American terms, it’s like training for the next year,” Al-Dawood said, a recharging of one’s spiritual batteries that keeps a person “God-conscious.”
But even during Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, the center offers more than a place to pray; families meet to eat, socialize and worship.
Bridging the gap between “common Americans” and Muslims is part of the community center’s mission, and one of the reasons they chose a site less than one mile from the University campus, Al-Dawood said.
Eliminating cultural misconceptions also means conveying ideas such as the belief that all religions are part of the same spiritual fabric and people can worship anywhere.
Al-Dawood’s fourth-grade son, Adel, who has the week off from the Islamic school he attends offered another example.
Adel cracked a smile when he explained how some American children misunderstood cultural differences: They asked him if his mother and aunt, both wearing traditional white robes, were “ghosts.”