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July 29, 2014, 8:58 pm

Philly’s Muslims prepare for Ramadan

For Muslims worldwide, next month is Ramadan (the ninth month in the Islamic calendar); it’s a sacred month set aside for fasting from sunrise to sunset. At the conclusion of Ramadan, millions of Muslims worldwide will celebrate Eid Ul Fitr, one of their most holy annual celebrations.

In Philadelphia, thousands of Muslims from various neighborhood enclaves will unite for a huge citywide celebration of Eid.

Based on the Fiqh Council of North American, Ramadan will begin July 20 through Aug. 18 (dates may vary based on the lunar cycle). Ramadan fasting is intended to educate Muslims in spirituality, humility and patience, and is a sacred time used to cleanse the soul, focus attention on Allah and put into practice selflessness. At the conclusion of Ramadan, followers of Islam will wait for the sighting of the moon, the official sign of the end of Ramadan — the next morning is the start of the Eid Ul Fitr, or Eid celebration.

The other Eid celebration is Eid Ul Adha, which is celebrated about two and a half months after the end of Ramadan, and is a festival of sacrifice and pilgrimage to Mecca, a holy Islamic city in Saudi Arabia’s Makkah province.

Eid Ul Fitr is a holy celebration that brings Islamic families and friends together to make stronger ties with each other. The Islamic term Eid means festival or celebration, and is equivalent to the magnitude of Christians celebrating Christmas. This Eid is also designed to give praise and thanksgiving to Allah via prayer, an exchange of gifts, and usually a financial tribute/Islamic religious offering called “Zakat” (usually 2.5 percent of one’s wealth earned within a calendar year).

After celebrating Jumuah, a congregational prayer gathering that Muslims hold every Friday, The Philadelphia Tribune caught up with Brother Qasim Rashad, at the United Muslim Masjid, in South Philadelphia, to chat about Jumuah and the upcoming Eid. Brother Rashad is president of the United Muslim Masjid.

“We have a pretty good mix, a pretty good diversity of Muslims here,” Rashad said. “We have Muslims from Africa, from Asia and of course, African Americans — and Caucasian Muslims, as well.”

Rashad expects a very larger than normal gathering of Muslims for Jumuah during the upcoming Eid celebration, “We have two holidays in the Muslim faith called Eid (Eid Ul Fitr and Eid Ul Adha). Eid Ul Fitr — concludes or recognizes the conclusion of Ramadan,” said Rashad. He also commented that a massive unified Eid gathering of area Muslims for is being planned. A possible location for the celebration could be Belmont Plateau.

“That’s going to be a conglomerate of all the local masjids in the city,” said Rashad, who has been a practitioner of the Muslim faith for more than 20 years.

Brother Shadeed Muhammad is the current Imam of United Muslim Masjid. The Imam is a designated Islamic leader who leads prayers in a mosque. According to the United Muslim Masjid’s website, Imam Muhammad is originally from Montclair, N.J. He is a graduate from the Islamic University of Madinah in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Hadeeth (i.e. Prophetic Traditions) with a concentration in Hadeeth and its Sciences. Imam Muhammad has extensive experience in the field of Da’wah (i.e. Islamic outreach) and translation. Imam Muhammad has translated many classical Arabic works into the English language and has authored several books.

To educate and ease public fears and misunderstanding about the Islam faith, Imam Muhammad strongly believes in being transparent about the edicts of his faith, “Transparency builds trust. And I think the more transparent we become as an Islamic community, as Muslims in general, here in the city and other places, the more comfortable people can become, and kind of rid themselves of this so-called ‘Islam-phobia.’ I think people are in fear of what they don’t know, and to be honest — I don’t think non-Muslims have an accurate portrayal of the religion of Islam and Muslims,” said Imam Muhammad. He admits, just like in other religions, how individuals can misrepresent and tarnish their religious beliefs by committing wrongful acts.

Islam is a monotheistic 7th-century religion based on the word of Allah; Islam literally means peace, submission to Allah. According to ReligiousTolerance.org, they estimate the total number of Muslims ranges from 0.7 to 1.57 billion worldwide and 1.1 to 7 million in the U.S. About 23 percent of all people globally follow Islam. The religion is currently in a period of rapid growth worldwide. In comparison, Christianity is currently the largest religion in the world. It is followed by about 33 percent of all people on the planet, a percentage that has remained stable for decades.

Imam Muhammad was hired as the imam of United Muslim Masjid in December of 2010. Since becoming the imam, Brother Shadeed conducts a series of monthly workshops including marriage and family workshops, instructional Arabic workshops, regular weekly religious classes and Friday sermons (i.e. Khutbahs) between two mosques in the city; his outreach to the community is impressive.

According to Imam Muhammad, “The (United Muslim Masjid) mosque is open seven days a week, for all five prayers, the first prayer beginning at 4:05 in the morning, the last prayer ending at 10:05 at night.” He acknowledges that he sees his largest group of followers during Friday’s Jumuah.

“I’m the chairman of the Unified Eid Committee — we are trying to put together an event for the city of Philadelphia where we can have one Eid celebration,” said Ryan Boyer. Boyer, 41, is the local union business manager for Labor District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity. He concluded, “We’re going to be a little more proactive in building alliances with outside people that may not be Muslims.”

“I was born a Muslim to converted parents. My parents were both Baptist Christians, and converted (to Islam) in the mid-’70s,” said Aliyah Khabir. Sister Khabir, 32, is a publicist/public relations/communications expert. She is assisting in the mass promotion of the upcoming Eid event.

“During the month of Ramadan there will be a series of media opportunities for reporters — to educate the Philadelphia and Delaware Valley area about Ramadan,” Khabir said.

For more information about local Ramadan and Eid celebrations, go to www.AZKcomm.com or aliyakhabir.com. The United Muslim Masjid is located at 810 South 15th St. The mosque phone number is (215) 546-6555.