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Understanding Ramadan with 3 members of the local Muslim community

(L-R) Nisar Syed-Power, Mojda Sidiqi and Faizan Syed talked about their observation of the holy month of Ramadan.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
(L-R) Nisar Syed-Power, Mojda Sidiqi and Faizan Syed talked about their observation of the holy month of Ramadan.

For the month of Ramadan, Muslims in St. Louis and across the world are counting down the days left of the holy month marked by daily fasting, increased religious observance and self-reflection.

But also added in the practice is refraining from smoking, bad behavior, such as cursing, gossiping or fighting, and impure thoughts. It’s a time for people to reflect on their habits and rekindle a practicing relationship with God, as well as build self-discipline.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh spoke to local Muslims about how they observe the month and all of its nuances. Joining him for the conversation were Faizan Syed, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in St. Louis, Nisar Syed-Power, a volunteer with Project Downtown, and Mojda Sidiqi, a local fitness trainer.

“It’s the best time of year,” Sidiqi said. “It’s the time where I get to do what I love most, which is introspection. I like to just zoom into myself … disconnect digitally from the cyber world and connect with my inner world, which I don’t get to do much being a busy millennial.”

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is celebrated as the month during which the Prophet Muhammad received the initial revelations that make up the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

For 30 days, Muslims in good health and of adolescent age fast from food and all liquids, sexual activity and impurities, such as smoking, from sunrise to sunset.

Many often wake up right before the crack of dawn for a meal, called “suhoor,” to supplement them until sundown, where they break the fast with a meal known as "iftar." Afterwards, many stay up late for Tarawih prayers, extra prayers performed exclusively during Ramadan.

Syed described Ramadan as “the great disturber.”

“It disrupts your schedule, it disrupts your flow for that whole month, it disrupts your sleep schedule – and because of that you are now living in the here and now and it is something that really inspires a lot of Muslims. When it’s here, they love it and when it’s gone, they miss it,” Syed said.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and begins with the sighting of the new moon. Since it’s based on the lunar calendar, Ramadan usually moves up by about 11 days each year. This year, Ramadan began in mid-May and will end in mid-June.

The end of Ramadan is marked with a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr.

Ramadan in St. Louis

In addition to partaking in the fasts, many Muslims give charity and volunteer. Syed-Power volunteers with Project Downtown-St. Louis every year. Volunteers in the organization prepare meals for neighborhoods in north St. Louis – even while fasting.

“It’s not just because of empathy or pity, it’s a duty. It’s part of our faith because no matter what wealth we have, it doesn’t really belong to us, it’s God’s wealth and we are caretakers,” Syed-Power said. “It’s our responsibility to take care of people in our community.”

Related Event:

What: CAIR 1st Celebrating Women Interfaith Iftar
When: 7 p.m. Thursday May 31
Where: Kababish Restaurant, 17 National Way Shopping Center, Ballwin
More information

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.