By Waleed Basyouni
Ramadan is a sacred month of spiritual growth and personal reflection. It is a blessed time of forgiveness, sacred prayers, and patience. Every year during the month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic year, Muslims fast from dawn until sundown in faith and hope that previous sins will be forgiven. Fasting, or refraining from beverage, food and sexual relations, reminds Muslims of their everyday blessings and keeps out the many distractions of the world as they refocus their lives on their relationship with Allah (God). By voluntarily withholding from or fasting, they are reminded of the everyday blessings that might go unnoticed in their lives.
In Ramadan, the day begins with “suhoor” or a pre-dawn meal. This is the last opportunity to gain nourishment before the fast begins at dawn. At the commencement of the Ramadan fast, called “iftar”, families will gather together at home, a friend’s house, or at their local mosque to break their fast together. It is very much a social event and a time to rekindle relationships with friends and kin. After the iftar, families will prepare for “Taraweeh,” the special night prayers that are exclusive to Ramadan, and held in mosques everywhere throughout the world. It is a tradition that has existed since the time of the prophet Muhammad, where people gather in the mosque and listen to the Quran recited from cover to cover during the nights of Ramadan. Worshippers would then go home, if it was a weeknight, to sleep before starting the day all over again.
Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. These form the foundation of Muslim life.
Side Bar: Houston is said to have the largest number of Muslims in Texas, consisting of over 1.6% of the population, and with about 80 mosques and at least 10 Muslim schools. Many mosques in Houston are very involved in local community projects that go beyond the Muslim community; walks for breast cancer, community clean-up projects, food distribution, and many other social welfare programs directed at prisons, shelters and aiding the less fortunate.
Clear Lake Islamic Center (affectionately called CLIC by its members) has positioned itself as the modern mosque. Its image is quite Texan, from the brazen outline of the state of Texas on the side of the building to its imam Waleed Basyouni showing off his cowboy boots on his popular Facebook page, with over 200,000 followers. Part of being a modern mosque is to make the center as family friendly as possible. CLIC is no exception, with the expected traditional prayer place for the men and another for the women, lounges, a fish tank, a wall mural with the theme of the year, a gym and a playpen worthy of McDonald’s.