At Alberta, we value the diversity of both our clients and staff. As an organization, we strive to learn about the various cultures and religions represented by our team. In observation of Ramadan, we interviewed one of our staff to learn more about the Muslim holiday and her experience with it.
Yaffa Ali, 19, is a student at Wake Forest University and works in the Greensboro office during her breaks. She is the daughter of Badi Ali, who oversees operations at the Alamance House group home. Yaffa is a practicing Muslim and is currently participating in Ramadan. We sat down with Yaffa to ask her about the holiday.
Staff: What is Ramadan?
YA: Ramadan is the holy month of fasting for Muslims in which we fast from sunrise to sunset for about 29 or 30 days.
Staff: Is it the same month every year?
YA: No, it follows the lunar calendar so it begins and ends on different days each year.
Staff: Why is it considered the “Holy Month”?
YA: It is believed that during this month the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammed. Therefore, its origins start with God’s Word. If you participate and commit to the entire month of holiness, your sins will be washed away. Within the month, the last 10 days are the most important. The main idea is that the last 10 days contains the night when the Quran was revealed to Muhammad, although we are not sure which night it is exactly. This night is called Al-Qadr, or the Night of Revelations. Al-Qadr has its own reward in itself because it is considered better than 1000 months.
Staff: What are the food stipulations during Ramadan? Are there foods that you eat at night to help your stomach during the day while you’re fasting?
YA: Oh yes, at night when we break our fast we have a huge meal, pretty much all of our nutrients are crammed in when we eat then. Right before sunrise, we will eat foods that will help us avoid dehydration during the day. We’ll eat dates, watermelon, sour cream, yogurt, pretty much anything with a thick consistency that isn’t too sweet or salty.
Staff: Do you have special services in observance of the holiday?
YA: Every Friday and Saturday night, we hold huge community dinners, serving about 500 or 600 people per night. Friday is our most important day, it’s the day of prayer. One of the most important things to remember about fasting is that you’re not just fasting from food and water, but you’re fasting from bad behaviors and anything that might harm the body or mind. You’re focus is getting closer to God. While fasting you’re supposed to work on your prayers, supplications, and spirituality. At night there is a long prayer time meant to promote the aspect of spirituality.
Staff: What is a typical night like for you during Ramadan?
YA: I will come home from work and sleep. About 8:40 PM (sunset) we will eat. Right after we eat, we perform our night prayers. Typically, we will sit around and spend time with the family. Later on, we go to the mosque to perform our late night prayers. Almost the whole household will stay up the entire night, snacking and visiting with the family. We will wait until right before sunrise (typically around 4:40 AM) to eat before we must fast again.
Staff: Are there any exceptions to the fast? Is anyone exempt?
YA: There are a few exceptions. Women who are menstruating or bleeding from childbirth do not fast until the bleeding has stopped. They are then required to fast a number of days equal to those she missed because of bleeding. The sick and pregnant are also not required to fast, but should perform restitution.
Staff: What is the end of Ramadan like? Is there a celebration?
YA: Yes, it’s a three day celebration, but the first day is the most important. We can eat the moment we wake up. Typically, you wake up early, make sure you’re clean and in new clothes, give gifts, see the family, and go to the mosque perform prayers. Usually, there are activities planned for the kids and adults for the remainder of the day. It is a very big deal.
Staff: Well, this has been incredibly interesting and informative. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.
YA: Of course, you’re welcome. I hope this was helpful.
Staff: It certainly was. Thank you.
by Ashley Pollard, Summer Employee at Alberta Professional Services
B.A. US History | B.A. Public Relations
Social and Economic Justice Minor
UNC-CH | Class of 2017
– Yaffa Ali & Family