MARQUETTE, Mich. — The first day is the hardest. If you’ve ever thought about fasting during Ramadan, whether you’re Muslim or not, I can tell you the sacrifice is worth the reward.
#IslamInTheUP I wish all my Muslim brothers and sisters a blessed #Ramadan. I am fasting with you this month. Here's why: andrewmqt.com/ramadan. Have a blessed Ramadan, everyone! رمضان مبارك
Posted by Andrew Lorinser on Monday, May 14, 2018
My favorite part is the discipline in slow cooking a meal for five hours, without so much as a drop of water from 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. You do not know how good an apple tastes until you fast from sunrise to sunset.
That’s the point; to feel empathy for the plight of the poor and the hungry, and to truly appreciate your meals and blessings. It’s a pretty simple value. Self deprivation for the sake of fulfillment transcends beyond cultures and religions. The principles of Ramadan are similar to those of Lent, and you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the value in each.
For me, it cleanses, it purifies, and brings me closer to understanding my Muslim friends. For my Muslim friends, it’s a little different. It brings them closer to understanding Allah (God), and I can appreciate that, too. They call it iftar. I call it breakfast. It nourishes us the same.
It is fulfilling. This is now my fifth year participating and it’s truly one of my favorite months of the year. “We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
#IslamInTheUP We are in the final stretch of Ramadan. Ibrahim Abdus-sabur leads Abdallah Abusalah and Sam Ali in prayer. Beautiful, isn't it? Ramadan Kareem, my friends. goo.gl/m2tMgj
ISHPEMING, Mich. — For 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, the holy month of Ramadan is a time of intense prayer, fasting, and deep introspection.
It’s a time for the faithful to feel connected in brotherhood with other Muslims as they abstain from eating, drinking, and smoking from sunrise to sunset. They do it to sympathize with the poor and symbolically step inside the shoes of those less fortunate than them.
Ramadan is a time of charity. It’s self deprivation for the sake of empathy. One of its main goals is to allow Muslims to sympathize with those who struggle with hunger every day.
“Usually you get a more cultural experience overseas,” says ABC 10’s Sam Ali. “More so, in my hometown of Dearborn. When there’s less concentration of Muslims somewhere, it’s definitely a different experience, a less wholesome experience, but you still get the same feelings, none-the-less.”
In the Upper Peninsula, Islam is not widely practiced. The Muslim population among Yoopers is unknown, growing, but small. The state of Michigan on the other hand has one of the nation’s highest population densities of Muslims, with nearly 20 – 25% downstate-Dearborn residents affiliating themselves with Islam.
Dearborn native and proud Muslim, Sam Ali, lives and works in the Upper Peninsula, right here at ABC 10. For him and his family Ramadan is sacred, and despite having few others with whom to celebrate, he practices his faith at home, and at work, religiously.
“If it’s at really good times if it doesn’t interfere with my work,” said Ali. “A lot of people here are very supportive, and they admire that I continue to practice my religion through some of the busiest work days here.”
Sam prays five times a day, and uses Ramadan as a month to cleanse and purify. He hopes Ramadan is a time is a time to kick-start better habits. He says praying at home and at work calms him. It’s a form of meditation and an expressions of his devotion to Allah.
HOUGHTON, Mich. — Best estimates suggest there are between 300 and 400 Muslims living in the Upper Peninsula. One hundred fifty of them congregate here, in Houghton Michigan.
It’s a small minority, a distinct enclave, but it’s inevitably growing. Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. So, why settle in the Upper Peninsula? It may have to do with the shared principles of opportunity and education.
Michigan Technological University is a diverse engineering school, inviting scientists, mathematicians, and engineers from all over the world. Muslims are attracted to the school quite possibly because of the historically embedded principles of their faith.
Ancient Islamic scholars invented the scientific process. Algebra, trigonometry, engineering, and astronomy all have their roots in Islam. The first all women’s university, a madrasa, was founded by Muslim women in Morocco.
That spirit of Muslim academia is alive and well here at Michigan Tech. Dr. Marwa Abdalmoneam has earned her PhD in Physics here and also served as an instructor at the university. She is a very active member of the school’s Muslim Student Association. Despite common misconceptions about the oppression of Muslim women, Dr. Marwa scoffs at the idea that women of Islam are undereducated.
“I was faced with this only when I came to America,” said Dr. Abdalmoneam. “In Egypt, we are more than fifty percent of the university students, that’s for the women. Same thing for the faculty members, especially the younger age. Above [age] 55, which are almost going to retire now, this is the only age where you have more men as faculty members for example.”
Her mother is a chemist. Her aunt was an employee in the minister of justice. Another aunt is a factory worker. All the women in Abdalmoneam’s family come from various backgrounds, and span across all education levels.
Although most members of the MSA Michigan Tech group come from Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, and beyond, assimilation is necessary.
MSA advisor Dr. Ossama Abdelkhalik is a faculty member in the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and says raising a family here isn’t as difficult as you might think.
“If I were to raise [my children] in Egypt, it would be challenging. But, the challenges are different,” said Dr. Abdelkhalik. “There is no problem at all. As long as you can convey the message to the kids, educate them, give them at least the necessary minimum education about the religion, then they can get the information and live the life the way they choose to live it.”
Both doctors are from Egypt. Celebrating the holy month of Ramadan in a U.P. compared to home is distinctly different.
“It’s a big thing. We start preparing for Ramadan in Egypt two months before,” said Dr. Abdalmoneam.
“It’s a very small community, so the positive side of that is that everybody knows everybody,” said Dr. Abdelkhalik. “It’s like a small family together. We get together on Saturdays, we talk, and have food together. This is a positive thing about being in a small community. Also, the area here is very safe. They understand different religions. We don’t encounter any problems being Muslims here in the U.S.”
The group was founded in 1989, originally to collect donations for the purpose of building a mosque in Houghton. But, there are no mosques here. Instead they gather at the community center to pray five times a day, and during Ramadan to break their fasts with other fellow Muslims.
In 1997, after a brief hiatus, MTU MSA came back from with a force. The group has a high reputation of being active on campus. They are engaged and committed to helping the Muslim community live their lives in the U.P. according to Islam.