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US Muslim Converts Get Ramadan Support

Published: 20/07/2013 08:18:06 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Creating a special family atmosphere for new Muslim converts in Ramadan, a Boston Islamic center is hosting weekly iftars for the community, offering newcomers to the faith get a chance to share their experiences, lea (more)

CAIRO - Creating a special family atmosphere for new Muslim converts in Ramadan, a Boston Islamic center is hosting weekly iftars for the community, offering newcomers to the faith get a chance to share their experiences, learn, and bond.

“It's not totally my first Ramadan, but I wasn't part of a community last Ramadan — and there's a big, big difference,” Brian Buzby told his friends at the new converts' class, Boston Globe reported on Saturday, July 20.

Buzby, who recently converted to Islam, described how he experienced headaches on his first day of Ramadan from caffeine withdrawal and mild dehydration.

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Though he loved night Taraweeh prayers at the mosque, he still have fears concerning abstaining from food and water all day.

“I don't even go to sleep before suhoor,” the 30-year-old student told a small group of fellow converts gathered at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center last week, referring to the 3 am predawn meal.

“I go home and I keep eating,” he added to a burst of laughter.

“We're still in the beginning,” their teacher, Hossam AlJabri, said while smiling.

“But Ramadan will just keep throwing beautiful things at you.”

Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in North America on Tuesday, July 9.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Muslims hold family gatherings to break their fast together.

Yet, some converts miss out on Ramadan's communal spirit, having no families to share their suhoor or iftar meals.

To overcome this challenge, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, has been working to help converts enjoy Ramadan.

A diverse, urban Islamic center, Boston's largest mosque, offered a special Ramadan experience to help converts feel more at home in the community and gain confidence as Muslims.

“Especially for converts who are out of college, not married, and don't have a strong social support group, I think the mosque becomes a place where they can come and get some family time in,” imam William Suhaib Webb,  convert himself, said.

“Twenty-nine or 30 days — you think about it, man, it's intense,” Webb said.

“And you feel so much better spiritually, you are really more sensitive to people around you.”

Sharing Ramadan

Extending a help hand to converts, the center helped new Muslims to enjoy Ramadan.

“I feel like I had a lot of energy from the excitement,” said Jenna Laib, a math teacher from Somerville.

“I felt really uplifted.”

Leanne Scorzoni, who was raised Catholic and recently converted has not told most of her family about her new Islamic faith.

At Boston iftars, she was surrounded by friends who offered her the community she missed.

“I feel more for my friends from other countries, because their families aren't here — they're here because of work or school, and they can't see them, except for Skyping,” she said.

Other Muslim converts managed to create their virtual contacts by texting their friends to wake up for suhoor.

“You feel that camaraderie, because we don't have a whole Muslim family to wake up within our homes,” 23-year-old Jaleela Browder of Dorchester said.

Elizabeth Hughes, a psychology graduate student from Wellesley who formally converted a few weeks ago, said her mother has been “very open, very understanding, very proud” of her newfound religious conviction.

But after a short hike together, her mother proffered a water bottle, saying, “Why can't you just drink water?”

“There's points where there's not the same wavelength, even when there are really good intentions,” she said.

“It's hard to explain what the blessing is in fasting.”

AlJabri, the class teacher, advised his students to be patient with their parents, when trying to explain their new religious practice to non-Muslims.

“The most memorable part of Ramadan is not a challenge but rather the spiritual journey,” he said.

“The feeling for many of them at the end of the month is, ‘I wish there were two months of Ramadan.'”

Reproduced with permission from