The Islamic Center of Watauga had its first family night event in two years on March 25. Syed Mansoor, the lead board member at the mosque, said the mosque’s congregation was excited to be back. 

“The plan is to fully enjoy this Ramadan, have full activities, but keep an eye on COVID as well,” Mansoor said. 

The month of Ramadan is set to mark the full return of in-person gatherings and events for the Muslim community since the pandemic started two years ago. Beginning at sundown on April 2, most Muslims, like Mujeeb Kazi and his 13-year old son, have begun preparing for Ramadan. 

During this year’s month of Ramadan, Kazi and his son have goals. For Kazi, he plans to read the 604-page long Quran from cover to cover — at least twice. His son is working on memorizing verses of the Quran to recite during prayer times. They see this as a way to show gratitude for God’s blessings. 

“There’s a saying by the prophet that tells us that God rewards you according to your intention,” said Kazi, president of the North Texas Islamic Council. “In the month of Ramadan, the underlying idea is to have yourself practice and get yourself used to it in a way that for the rest of the year, you’ll be a good human, a good Muslim.”  

Eyad Al-Kobri, an administrator at the Islamic Association of Tarrant County, expects attendance at mosques and events to break the fast to go back up to pre-pandemic levels. 

Al-Kobri said around 500 people would come in during Friday service before COVID-19. During the pandemic, that number went down to around 200. Attendance at Sunday school dropped from 250 to just 80 children. This year, the number is back up to 150 children. 

“It’s really important for the Muslim to really have that communication and that relationship with the mosque,” Al-Kobri said. “It’s been tough the last two or three years where we’ve been really limited, especially with the social distancing and masks and all of that.”

Caption: Eyad Al-Kobri poses for a picture inside the Islamic Association of Tarrant County mosque. (Sandra Sadek | Fort Worth Report)

The North Texas Islamic Council, a community-based non-profit umbrella organization representing and advocating on behalf of the mosques and Muslim organizations in the area, estimates half a million Muslims live in North Texas. 

Yushau Sodiq, a religion professor of Islamic studies and Islamic law at Texas Christian University, described Ramadan as a period where the faithful discipline themselves and thank God for their blessings as well as remember the less fortunate.

The TCU professor said there are misconceptions about Ramadan, including comparing it to a diet or referring to it as a holiday. 

“Part of the misconception is to think that when Ramadan comes and people fast, then they are going to lose a lot of weight. That is not true,” Sodiq said. “The second thing is that it’s not actually a type of break, whereby people do not work. No, they do work.”

What is Ramadan? 

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic or lunar calendar and a time when Muslims fast, reflect and give back. Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, engaging in sexual relations, smoking and having ill thoughts for 30 days from dawn to dusk. 

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. The five pillars of Islam include prayer five times a day, giving charity to the poor, fasting during Ramadan, confessing that there is only one God, and taking a pilgrimage to Mecca (Islam’s holiest city) at least once during one’s lifetime.

Sodiq said many Muslims did not attend the communal prayers because of self-distancing and the closure of religious places over the last two years. The lack of attendance may have also affected the finances of some mosques, he said.

Mansoor, who leads the Watauga mosque, said about 50% to 60% of yearly donations are given during Ramadan. 

Among the tenets of the religion is to give back to those in need. Most mosques host food drives, but the last two years forced them to rethink how those were done. Many mosques turned their food drives into drive-thrus or deliveries. Additional hours and days were added over the last two years and many will keep those in place as Ramadan approaches. 

Al-Kobri and Mansoor said their mosque will continue the drive-thru and delivery options for those in need who come to the mosque. 

“It was easy, you’re just kind of outside, they’re coming in their cars, they will take the food and leave. So that was something beneficial,” Al-Kobri said.

Kazi said fasting during the day allows the Muslim community to gain a better understanding of how those they are helping, feel. 

“There’s the physical aspect. And then the spiritual aspect of it is that you stay hungry, so you can feel the hunger of people who are not fortunate enough to have a meal available at all times,” he said. 

What makes Ramadan special, TCU professor Sodiq said, is the fact that all Muslims around the world fast at the same time and break fast at the same time.

“Islam is not just going to the mosque — it’s a way of life,” he said. “My fasting is personal, but the social aspect of it is international.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on April 1, 2022, to clarify a quote referencing a saying from the prophet.

Fort Worth Report fellow Sandra Sadek may be reached at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Sandra Sadek

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Houston, she graduated from Texas State University where she studied journalism and international...

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