Muslims around the world celebrated Eid Al-Fitr last week, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and many Muslim Americans found themselves honoring the celebration in and around Oxford and Memphis.
Ramadan is a time to abstain from natural and carnal desires through fasting and time of deep self-reflection, prayer and charity.
Mariam Khayata is the Communication Director for 901 Ummah, a non-profit organization dedicated to uniting the city of Memphis by providing mentorship, cultivating talent and providing programs and opportunities. “This month has served to be a precious time to experience a spiritual revival,” Khayata said. “Although I had to endure 100-plus (degree weather), this month was still effective and helped unify our community.”
Khayata, a Boston native, enjoys answering questions about Islam and engaging with her local community around her. She said she has found Southern charm extremely heart-warming.
“Experiencing Ramadan in the South has been nothing short of amazing,” Khayata said.
Southern hospitality remained consistent as Memphis’ local interfaith community hosted its 12th annual interfaith dinner this month, bringing in 300 people from various cultures, religions and backgrounds.
“Being able to experience events such as the interfaith dinner and have the opportunity to speak to supportive individuals from differing faiths is very empowering and inspirational.”
Khayata said Interfaith events help to bridge the gap and create mutual respect and understanding, and the events are particularly important considering the current political climate.
“It is a testament to the success and love our community is able to achieve once its united,” Khayata said.
Because Eid is a family-oriented Islamic holiday, Muslim families will typically spend the day either visiting family and friends or hosting family and friends at home. However, many American Muslims have designed and formed their own traditions and customs.
“In Pakistan, women don’t go to the mosque-it’s only men,” Ole Miss education professor Rukhsana Uddin said. “That is a major difference.”
Uddin said though she feels comfortable attending prayers at the mosque, she believes that choice is up to the individual woman.Living in the West has created new customs and traditions for some believers, but it has has also broken others.
“I am finding that many communities rent out places like Incredible Pizza, entire amusement parks and bowling alleys,” said Kirk Ashir, Assistant Imam at Mid-town Mosque in Memphis.
Some who who don’t like the traffic of an amusement park attend Eid Prayer at the mosque, followed by a breakfast or a brunch.
“We have to create our own traditions,” Ashir said. “Those people in those countries have their traditions, and we have to make ours.”