Several thousand Tulsa-area Muslims met at the Cox Business Center downtown Wednesday morning to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Ramadan fast.
The service has not been held for several years in the Masjid Al-Salam mosque because the Islamic Society of Tulsa’s facility cannot accommodate major celebrations for Tulsa’s growing Muslim population.
Practicing Muslims worldwide do not eat or drink during daylight hours in the lunar month of Ramadan, and they also observe special times of prayer and extra charitable giving. Because the observance follows the lunar calendar, it falls earlier each year on the Western calendar.
When Ramadan falls in summer, it means longer, hotter days of fasting.
“I do it every year, so we’re used to it,” said Tulsa resident Coby Green, formerly of San Jose, California.
“These last couple years, and presumably the next couple of years, it’s summertime — longer, hotter, more difficult,” he said. “But in fairness, over your lifetime, eventually you’re going to do it in the wintertime. The days are shorter, cooler and it’s less difficult.”
Was this year’s Ramadan a good experience?
“Absolutely,” Green said.
Also attending the downtown gathering was Pakistan native Muhammad Ali (yes, that’s his real name).
“My Ramadan experience was good,” he said. “It was a blessing. It was a little bit tough because I have to work outside.”
Ali said he will get together with his family later in the day to eat, celebrate and exchange gifts.
Mustafa Chmeiseh, a Tulsan who was a Palestinian refugee, described his Ramadan fast as “great.”
“It was long hours, but God gave us the power to continue and to go to work and break our fast with family, and then go to the (nightly) prayer. It was awesome. The 30 days passed so fast.”
He said he took off work Wednesday and would celebrate with his wife and family.
“We usually have a special feast, and I call my family here in the U.S.A. and back home in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates,” Chmeiseh said.
Nearly all the furniture was removed from the Cox Business Center for the Eid al-Fitr service, creating a wide, open area for prayer.
Worshippers of all ages, many of them wearing ethnic clothing, left their shoes at the door. They alternately stood, bowed and prostrated themselves, forehead to the floor, as prayers were recited in Arabic. Men were in front, and women were behind them for reasons of modesty.
In a short sermon, Imam John Ederer said the Muslim practice of praying five times a day, the second of the five pillars of Islam, helps people keep their minds on spiritual things and not worldly pursuits.
“We should never bow down or submit to other than God, and we should never let anything come between us and our Lord, creator, provider,” he said. “And that’s why we pray five times a day.”
Ederer noted that historically, Jews and Orthodox Christians prayed in a manner like Muslims — standing, bowing and prostrating themselves — and that small pockets of non-Muslims still pray that way as part of an ancient prayer practice.
“Be proud of who you are, because the only place you will find (that style of prayer) is all over the world in Muslim houses and Muslim mosques,” he said.
Ederer noted the Muslim world is facing various trials, including ISIS, which he called a “disastrous, evil group claiming to be an Islamic state. … May God remove this fake, false Islamic state.”
“May we be those who establish the true jihad, the true struggle of righteousness and goodness and compassion and mercy in the world around us, and stop the evil and corruption,” Ederer said.
“We have this anti-Islamic campaign that would have you all be scared, hiding your beliefs, changing your name.
“Now is the time to be proud of your faith, to stand up for your values. … It’s time to seek a better understanding of our faith and have a stronger, dedicated practice of Islam.”
Ederer said he prayed that Muslims would build better relationships with non-Muslim neighbors and colleagues, “so they would never get the wrong idea from the media, and from those who have an agenda against us.”