Ramadan brings SCV Muslim community together 

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As the sun set on March 10, Muslims throughout the world, including Santa Clarita, prepared for their first day of Ramadan, a lunar month-long holiday in which Muslims fast from dawn, or “fajr,” to sunset. 

Ramadan is the Islamic calendar’s ninth month — it is believed the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, according to the BBC. This year, Ramadan is 30 days and ends the night of April 9. Eid al-Fitr, one of two main lunar year festivities, takes place April 10. Able-bodied Muslims are required to fast, as it is one of the five pillars of Islam, unless they are breastfeeding or menstruating women, ill, elderly or traveling. 

The Santa Clarita Muslim community has been active in participating in various spiritual and cultural events, ranging from “iftars,” or gatherings to break the fast, to Quran recitation lessons to voluntary “taraweeh” prayers.  

Men pray right after breaking their fast, before having a full meal at iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The SignalMen pray right after breaking their fast, before having a full meal at iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Men pray right after breaking their fast, before having a full meal at iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

The Unity Center of Santa Clarita in Newhall is set to host a “Qiyamul Layl” or night worship on Saturday, as well as Ramadan Funday on Sunday, a Quran recitation competition on April 6 and a bazaar to commemorate the end of the month of Ramadan on April 9.  

Leading the efforts in Ramadan Funday, which will take place on Sunday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., are UCSC Sunday School principals Labiba Syeed and Fatima Islam.  

Volunteering to be teachers in October 2022, and later being encouraged to be principals by mentors in the community, Syeed and Islam have taken the initiative to make Ramadan as enjoyable for the children as possible.  

Men serve the food for iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The SignalMen serve the food for iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Men serve the food for iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“Fatima is really good with kids. She has a flawless way of getting points across and really reaching that type of demographic. For me, mine’s more on the organization, leadership, background work and planning,” Syeed said. “Last year, we had a lightbulb moment, and since Sunday School was closed in observance of Ramadan, we were like, ‘Hey, why don’t we put together an event geared towards kids to have fun during Ramadan.’” 

Thus, Ramadan Funday was born. 

“We had games, we did a lot of arts and crafts, we had prize options, balloon darts, ‘Around the World’ basketball, and many kids from all over the community participated,” Syeed said. 

This year, attendees can expect to play and engage in activities including Ramadan charades, a Ramadan-themed scavenger hunt, relay races, Islamic arts and crafts, an art drawing contest, and a Ramadan trivia challenge. 

Ramadan decorations of lanterns and mosques cover Al-Umma Center during iftar on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The SignalRamadan decorations of lanterns and mosques cover Al-Umma Center during iftar on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Ramadan decorations of lanterns and mosques cover Al-Umma Center during iftar on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

On the opposite side of town, at Al-Umma Center of Santa Clarita, Sunday school students still attend their classes as they’re fasting, but with added Ramadan benefits. 

“Instead of doing the normal Quran, memorization and learning the letters and Islamic studies, we take them all together in one group regardless of level and we have fun, hands-on art activities,” said Aisha Poswal, volunteer Sunday school instructor. “Some of the kids are fasting, some of them are too little. Regardless of their age, we tell them that they can practice fasting during the two hours of Sunday school.” 

The activities entail making ornament decorations, bookmarks and lanterns that are hung for residents to enjoy during the iftars that are held throughout the month.  

Ramadan decorations of lanterns cover Al-Umma Center during iftar on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The SignalRamadan decorations of lanterns cover Al-Umma Center during iftar on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Ramadan decorations of lanterns cover Al-Umma Center during iftar on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Muslim families in the community often sponsor a meal during the weekends for anyone in Santa Clarita to enjoy, with an occasional potluck held sporadically. 

Mahgiub El-Arabi, founding member of the Al-Umma Center and a member of its board of trustees, often spearheads the initiative for families to sponsor. 

“The response has been very positive, especially since there’s still school. People have been very cooperative and friendly,” El-Arabi said. “Up to five families can get together and contribute funds, whether they cater themselves, or use the masjid’s (mosque) caterer.” 

While iftars and taraweeh prayers are tradition, community members also take the time to participate in “zakat,” a religious obligation to donate, as well as supporting Islamic nonprofits and organizations.  

Women serve the food for iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The SignalWomen serve the food for iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Women serve the food for iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“We invited Islamic nonprofit organizations to set up tables and address the community and say what their work is all about, and after that they try to collect donations for their cause. We try not to bombard our community with fundraising all the time, so we limit [the days],” El-Arabi said. “We encourage non-Muslims to come and join our iftars; this is more of a social event. We feel blessed that our community is growing every year.” 

Muslims who grew up in the community, including Dania Salman, Anjum Poswal and Justice Buckly, reflect on the process of fasting each day as they navigate Ramadan with schooling and working.  

‘’I started fasting the full month in elementary school, but my earliest memory of Ramadan would be that my mom would have us fast half days and full days every now and then during the month. It really motivated me to fully commit to all 30 days when I was younger,” Salman said. “Being together practically every night was something I always looked forward to, especially getting together with family, friends, and other community members at the masjid.” 

Salman enjoys educating people around her, including those under the impression that the fast is 30 days straight. 

Dania Salman awaits iftar at Al-Umma on Friday, March 22. Habeba Mostafa/ The SignalDania Salman awaits iftar at Al-Umma on Friday, March 22. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Dania Salman awaits iftar at Al-Umma on Friday, March 22. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“One major misconception that people have is that Muslims don’t eat or drink anything straight for 30 days and 30 nights. A proper fast needs to be broken when the sun goes down and we wake up early to eat ‘suhoor,’ or an early breakfast, just before fajr comes in,” Salman said. “Sometimes people start fasting a few days with me just to try it out and it’s nice to see that.”  

Anjum agrees, while adding that not drinking water is often the hardest part of the fast — yes, not even water. 

“Not drinking water during the hotter months was really taxing on me, but we’re getting into the colder months now.” 

Anjum does not partake in suhoor, but prefers to stay up later to have a full meal. 

“I don’t wake up in the early mornings, I just eat at night and stay up a little bit later. I actually enjoy going to school or work during Ramadan, even though most people would feel that it’s harder to,” Anjum said. “It helps distract me from my hunger, and I actually prefer the weekdays over the weekends during Ramadan.” 

Women serve the food for iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 22. Habeba Mostafa/ The SignalWomen serve the food for iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 22. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Women serve the food for iftar at Al-Umma Center on Friday, March 22. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Buckly discussed that the mental element of the fast, as well as set intentions, often make the fasting and overall month enriching and fulfilling.  

“Fasting is more of a mental thing than a physical thing. When you’re doing it and have the right intention, it’s a lot easier,” Buckly said. “There’s a post going around that says, ‘Being full after fasting a whole day really shows you the shortness of the pleasure and struggles of this world.’” 

Buckly prefers to stay busy and focused, knowing that the reward exceeds the temptation of indulging. 

“There’s satisfaction in knowing that you went the whole day and you stuck to it. You achieved what you set out to do and you didn’t cheat yourself or take any shortcuts,” Buckly said. “When everyone has their own journey throughout the day, and we all come together, it’s a lovely moment.” 

Anyone who would like to sign up for Ramadan Funday can visit tinyurl.com/bde6k5nc. 

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