Zoya Sattari remembers managing her Ramadan fast while she continued to compete on her high school swim team.
The Oklahoma City metro woman is now a student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
She recalled how understanding her coaches were as she fasted from food and drink from sunrise to sunset along with other observant Muslims during the Islamic holy month of fasting.
“I would swim on my back to make sure I didn’t swallow water,” she told a crowd gathered for a recent event called “Revealing Ramadan: A Look-in on the Muslim Month of Fasting.”
The college student was one of several metro Muslims who participated in an informative panel discussion about Ramadan. The “Revealing Ramadan” event was held Tuesday at the Islamic Society of Oklahoma City’s Mercy Mission Center. As part of the event, guests were treated to a free meal catered by several local restaurants like Zam-Zams and a tour of the Islamic Society’s mosque, 3815 St. Clair Ave., adjacent to the Mercy building. The event was sponsored by the Islamic Society and the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam. Many Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from dawn to sunset during the month, which commemorates the divine revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. The Islamic holy month began at sundown May 15 and the first day of Ramadan began on May 16.
Julia Ehrhardt, a University of Oklahoma Honors College American studies professor, said she attended the event to learn more about Muslim faith traditions. She said also wanted to learn more about Ramadan etiquette.
“I decided to come largely to support the Muslim community and to learn more about Ramadan,” she said.
She said also wanted to learn more about Ramadan etiquette, particularly how non-Muslims could be more supportive of individuals participating in the Ramadan fasting. Muslim panelists had ready answers when she and others in the crowd asked how Muslims respond when their non-Muslims friends and co-workers eat while they are fasting.
One panelist said she had been at a work meeting at a coffee shop and a co-worker brought cookies for the group. When the co-worker began to apologize profusely for bring the food to the gathering during Ramadan, the panelist said she told her co-workers not to change their own eating habits because she was observing her faith custom.
“My religion is not everyone’s religion,” she said.
Dr. Khalid Alzubi, a metro dentist, said he typically worked during his lunch period during the day, something that his co-workers seemed to appreciate.
In describing the day in the life of a Muslim during Ramadan, Imad Enchassi, the Islamic Society’s senior imam, said he spends many of his evenings speaking to different groups about Ramadan and participating in a growing number of community Iftar dinners. Iftar is the meal that Muslims eat after sunset to break their Ramadan fast.
He said his days and evenings are long because he has to get back to the mosque to lead nightly prayers that are held after the Iftar meal during Ramadan.
Alzubi said knowing that he would be fasting all day, his day generally started early during the holy month because he tries eat a meal before sunrise and the beginning of the fast. He said he didn’t always beat the sun in order to grab that pre-dawn meal.
“If I don’t make it up and eat the morning meal, well tough luck,” he said, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
Enchassi explained that fasting was a form of worship.
“As you go about your day, you’re constantly remembering God every time you want to eat. We take the month to get closer to the Quran to become more God conscious,” he said.
“The Quran is our actual ‘soul food.’ We spend the rest of our time feeding our bodies but this month, we feed our souls.”
Meanwhile, guests watched a humorous video that showed several metro Muslims interacting with non-Muslims at an Oklahoma City mall. When the Muslims asked passers-by what they knew about Ramadan, a few said they knew it was tied to Islam but the majority of those interviewed couldn’t give any details about the holy month.
Later, during the tour of the mosque, guests left their footwear in an alcove and walked into a prayer room where several men were praying as they sat on colorful rugs.
Enchassi gave the group an impromptu quiz on the Quran as the group stood opposite shelves lines with copies of the Islamic holy book.
Tariq Sattar, chairman of CAIR-Oklahoma, thanked attendees for participating in the event.
“The rise in anti-Islamic rhetoric does not exist in a vacuum. Similarly, any effort to counter that can not be in a vacuum,” he said.
“We need to put our humanity first. Build bridges of understanding and look for ways to foster open channels of communication. As Muslims, we appreciate neighbors and fellow community members like yourselves that have the curiosity and the eagerness to learn about our faith.”