CLEVELAND — April marks the holy month of Ramadan for millions of Muslims across the world. Ramadan is a time filled with fasting, prayer and sacrifice which falls on the 9th month of the Islamic Lunar calendar.
In Parma inside the mosque, you see a peaceful group of men and women praying, but beyond those walls, Muslims feel a different image is painted.
“The outside noise is that Islam and Muslims — there's the derogatory meaning or there's something bad associated with it. That's not the case," said Hassan Saleh with the Islamic Center of Cleveland.
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world behind Christianity; in many places, Muslims have battled peoples' lack of understanding.
“We’re people just like the rest of the world. We're in 2022 — the times of the past are gone. We have to really adapt to the times of now and understand what's going on in other people's religions,” said Saleh.
Another misconception Muslims face is not all Muslims are Arab and not all Arabs are Muslim. In Ohio alone, there are thousands of Muslims from all over the world.
“Not specifically Arabs, but a lot of Muslims in general from all walks of life [are] from India, Pakistan, Palestine, Jordan, Syria,” said Saleh.
They all worship Allah and just hope to be accepted.
“We may be a neighbor to you, we may live across the street, we may be on your bus with your kids,” said Saleh.
Ramadan lasts 30 days; it begins and ends with the appearance of the crescent moon.
“It's a sacrifice, getting closer to God, understanding that there are people that are less fortunate than us that don't get the food and don't get the water that we do,” said Saleh.
While fasting, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and gossiping. Instead, they focus their energy on prayer, reflection and giving back.
But Ramadan is also about community, so just as they gathered at the mosque to pray, once the sun sets, they gather around the table to feast.
“It's important because it's unity and joining together and praying together and eating together,” said Kawthar Jaffal.
Jaffal and her family take turns hosting large Ramadan dinners throughout the month. They are at a different gathering just about every night.
“I love it. This is the best feeling in the world. You know this is a blessing from God that we have every year to celebrate Ramadan,” said Jaffal.
For her family, these dinners are special. They're filled with uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters breaking fast, enjoying each other's company and worshipping.
“Every time you look around, you'll never see a dull moment, you always see a smile on somebody's face,” said Abed Jabareen.
“Ramadan, you know, brings us together and I want our kids in the future to know who their cousins are, who the family is,” said Jaffal.
Also during that time, Jaffal makes sure they are leading by example because she looks forward to the day the next generation will follow in those same traditions.
“I hope my future generations continue to carry on because it's honestly a blessing to be able to do something like this,” said Jabareen.
Faith, family and food — it’s clear why Ramadan is Jaffal’s favorite.
Even with all that love she just wishes those on the outside could feel the power of Ramadan and the love Muslims give.
“I want the people to know this is us...we are peaceful people. I love everybody in the world, no matter what religion they are, and this is what Islam is. It brings us together and makes everybody united as one,” said Jaffal.
So to all Muslim or not, “Ramadan Kareem," which means have a blessed or generous Ramadan.
Ramadan ends in just a few days, with the Eid celebration. For Muslims, the holiday is similar to Christmas or Hanukkah, filled with family, food, and gifts.
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