Some 4,000 Muslims celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Ramadan fast, Monday morning at the Central Park Hall at Expo Square.
It was the second year that Eid al-Fitr was held at the fairgrounds instead of the Al-Salam mosque, which can accommodate only about 1,200 people.
A celebratory mood filled the building as Muslims greeted one another with embraces, many of them dressed in traditional attire from their native lands.
Worshippers alternately stood, kneeled and bowed to the ground on long strips of corrugated cardboard unrolled on the concrete floor for the one-hour service. Some brought their own prayer mats.
Observant Muslims around the world have been fasting from sunrise to sunset during the lunar month of Ramadan, which just ended. The Ramadan fast is one of the five pillars, or requirements, of Islam.
“My Ramadan experience was enlightening, … a great sense of community,” Sean Moore said.
“We get together every night to break our fast, and we go to each others’ houses. Thirty days of that creates a wonderful sense of not just spiritual enlightenment, but also brings people together,” he said.
Masood Kasim, chairman of the Islamic Society of Tulsa, a Pakistani businessman who came to the United States in 1981, said Ramadan this year was “amazing, even with the hot weather. With the kids being out of school, they have joined in large numbers. That’s what we like to see, our youths coming to the mosque and joining us.”
Ahmed Shaban, 15, said: “We got to feel really close to our God, and it’s a great feeling. It’s really hot outside. You get really thirsty most of the time. I usually stayed at home a lot.”
Saleem Batman, 15, said: “It was good. It was kind of hard because it was summertime, but other than that, it wasn’t like, that crazy. You get used to it after the first couple of days, and after that, it’s just like a daily habit.”
Both were born in America and attend Peace Academy, a Muslim school. Shaban’s parents are from Jordan. Batman’s father is Syrian.
Imam John Ederer — who was raised in Tulsa, graduated from Bishop Kelley High School and embraced Islam in 1998 — was the guest imam for the service.
He is now imam of the Muslim American Society in Charlotte, North Carolina, but for several years was part of the Tulsa Muslim community.
“This is the holiday of breaking the fast,” Ederer said in an interview after the service.
“For the past 30 days, we were fasting from dawn to sunset in a special connection with God. It’s about building a special connection based upon spiritual discipline. If food and water is nourishment for the body, then leaving food and water is nourishment for the soul.
“We remove ourselves for one month from the materialistic, the worldly. That’s the idea. God is teaching us an objective lesson in rejecting worldly desires. Once you can control food and water, then lust and greed and envy, all those are secondary.
“It was amazing. It was beautiful. It’s like a spiritual euphoria.
“So it’s a happy day. It’s a great accomplishment,” he said.
In his message during the service, Ederer said that hope is central to Islam.
He gave examples from antiquity and modern times of people who had opposed the Muslim faith and later converted to Islam and became strong defenders of the faith.
“There is hope for people to change,” he said.
“Islam is all about hope,” he said, immediate hope for peace and justice and morality on Earth, and future hope that God will “bring us into his paradise.”
“Despair and hopelessness is like slamming the door in the face of God,” he said.