I'm not Muslim. In fact, I don't really prescribe to any religion, which makes me a great candidate for learning about all of them because I have no agenda.
I've observed Shabbat with Jewish friends. I have attended Christmas Eve mass with Catholic friends. I've been to synagogues and temples and churches and mosques. I own a Bible and a Quran, a rosary and a hijab. I guess you could say studying religion is a hobby of mine.
Aug. 1-30 is the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and I decided I wanted to learn a little bit more about this important religious holiday. So on Friday, Aug. 19, I spent my day learning about the history, customs and importance of Ramadan to Muslims.
Part 1: Waking up really early (4 a.m.) to . Muslims typically fast during the entire month of Ramadan from sunup to sundown, which means no food and no liquids–not even water. This is believed to teach Muslims about patience, as well as to put them more in touch with their spirituality.
Fasting taught me why fasting is such an important part of Ramadan. Each time I reached for a bottle of water or walked past my refrigerator, I had to make a conscious effort to stop myself and remember why I could not eat or drink.
It also taught me that without food and water, it's incredibly difficult to go about your day as normal. And yes, I took a nap.
For Muslims, this constant reminder is that they are submitting themselves to Allah (God) and learning the self-discipline to remember that faith is more important than worldly things.
Part 2: Prayer is an integral part of being a Muslim, and this is especially true during Ramadan. During my visit to the , I learned that they stay open nearly 24 hours a day during the holy month to accommodate Muslims looking to pray. Muslims are encouraged to pray at the mosque or at home five times a day.
that Islam is as much about community as it is about faith. During the afternoon service, Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini discussed the importance of Ramadan and submission to God, but he also implored attendees to give of their time and money to important causes, like feeding orphans overseas.
But service to community can also mean one's own neighborhood. Attendees hugged each other with greetings of "as-salaam alaikum," or "Peace be upon you." And they were just as welcoming to me, too.
Part 3: But never did I more realize how welcome I was then when I attended an Iftar dinner (where the day's fast is broken) with Mariam Dahoui-Charara, her husband Hussein and their families at their home in east Dearborn.
Earlier that day, Mariam taught me how to put on hijab–the head scarf traditionally worn by Muslim women–as well as how to fit in with the customs of a prayer service (so I wouldn't embarrass myself!).
And when I returned to their home Friday evening, Mariam and Hussein's brothers, sisters and parents treated me as though I was part of the family. Together we broke our fast, and shared stories for hours about our families and our lives as we dined on delicious foods and relaxed after a long day.
This experience taught me that one of the most important things about Ramadan is that it reminds us to slow down and make time for our families and friends. Close the laptops, gather around the table every night and enjoy each other's company.
We could all learn something from this practice, no matter what our religion.
Jessica Carreras is editor of Dearborn Patch. The video is by Dearborn Patch intern David Uberti.