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Ramadan In New York: Where Diversity Comes Together For Ramadan And Eid

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Faruq Senin  •  May 27, 2019

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We're back with yet another inspiring story of Muslims from around the world and how they celebrate Ramadan and Eid ❤️ This time, our contributor, Amina, shares with us her experience celebrating Ramadan and Eid across two countries, Bangladesh during her younger years, and in New York where she currently resides 😊 Read on to find out learn about Amina's experience as a Muslim in New York, and her time in Bangladesh!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Amina Khan and I am a hybrid of two very different cultures. I spent the first half of my life in Bangladesh and the current half in the US. Although it was really hard to cope with such a huge change early in my life after moving to the States at the age of 11, I am so very happy that I have that part of me. The two cultures that shaped me are both very important to me and I see the full impact of both cultures in my life in the month of Ramadan more than any other time of the year.
2. How is the Ramadan atmosphere like in NYC? What are some of the activities that the Muslim community does where you’re at?
Interfaith iftar dinner Ramadan in NYC is basically a full month of Iftar parties. Whether it's family; community; interfaith; or Masjid Iftars... I absolutely love them all! A typical day for us in Ramadan would be rushing from work to get home; freshen up and attend an Iftar party; then rushing from the Iftar party to go to the Taraweeh with my parents and if it's the weekend we go partying hardcore till Tahajjud (and by partying I mean getting Burgers at Steinway street :) ). 
3. How many hours do you fast and how’s the weather? Does this make it easier or harder to fast?
We fast about 16 hrs in New York, and the past few Ramadans were right in the middle of super humid and hot NYC summer but subhanAllah somehow every Ramadan it rains a lot! Which makes it easier for us to keep our fasts and this current Ramadan has been really cool and nice Alhamdulillah with only a few really hot days and even those weren't so bad.
4. What’s your biggest challenge or struggle during Ramadan and how do you overcome it?
 The biggest challenge during Ramadan for me is sleep and giving up caffeine. My favourite part of each morning is my cup of Desi Style Chai (milk tea). Since I can't have that in the morning during Ramadan, I used to get really sleepy and would get the worst headaches. I have started drinking Tea with my Suhur and that got rid of the headache and by the middle of every Ramadan my body adjusts to the lack of sleep and I go on this spiritual high where I can not only pray Taraweeh but also do Qiaym at night, while during the rest of the year I can barely wake up for fajr :)) 
5. What does Ramadan mean to you and how do you take care of yourself during this month?
Ramadan to me is a gift from Allah. So many things go wrong throughout the year along with my Iman level. I use Ramadan as a time to take care of my heart. I try my best every Ramadan to cleanse my heart from all negativity and try to focus on my relationship with Allah.
6. How do you connect with your faith and God during this month?
This might be weird but I skip Taraweeh at the Masjid some nights and pray at home alone and have a private conversation with Allah. Like I mentioned before Ramadan in NYC (at least for me) is basically a month of Iftar parties, I try to skip some during the last ten nights and focus on my heart and my relationship with Allah.
7. Do your non-Muslim friends understand fasting and how do they react to it?
 My non-Muslim friends for the most part love the idea of fasting and Ramadan. When I was in Middle School my social studies teacher fasted one day along with some non-Muslim students to show support to the Muslim students in class. This was many years ago but I still remember because that was one of the coolest thing any teacher could do. My sister-in-law has a bakery called Ibby & Lulu's Home Bakery and every Ramadan I get customized delicious Ramadan cookies from her to give to my non-Muslim/Muslim friends/coworkers/neighbors and they love it!
8. What tips would you give to someone who’s visiting NYC during Ramadan?
If you are in NYC during Ramadan, make sure to check out some Iftars at the different Masjids throughout the city. Downtown Manhattan: Masjid Manhattan, Inc.: it's really close to the World Trade Center and the mosque is super clean. They have daily Iftar and Salatul-Taraweeh in Ramadan. Islamic Cultural Center of New York (AKA 96th street masjid): It’s one of the most beautiful Masjids in NYC. The recitation is so beautiful and is one of my favorite places to pray Taraweeh. They serve Iftars daily as well. Midtown Manhattan: Masjid Usman Bin Affan, it’s right in the center of Manhattan and they serve delicious Iftar (the last time I had Iftar there they had NYC style Gyro over rice…so yummy!). They have Taraweeh prayers every night as well and the Masjid is super close to Subways. Queens: Masjid Al-Iman on Steinway: I love love love the recitation of the Imam. It makes you feel like you are in Madīnah. They have Iftars, but honestly if you are in Steinway I would say to get Iftar from Little Morocco or Duzan right in front of the masjid. Both restaurants are really good and you can just walk back to the Masjid after Iftar to pray Taraweeh. JMC (Jamaica Muslim Center): If you want Bengali food JMC is the place for you. Iftars every night and they do 20 Rakat Taraweeh with beautiful recitation so if you are feeling like challenging yourself with a 20 Rakat long Taraweeh - this is your place. 
Ice cream party at Masjid 'Eesa Masjid ‘Eesa ibn Maryam: This is the Masjid I go to most nights for Taraweeh. Their Taraweeh’s are short and sweet; perfect for young people working and who can’t necessarily pray late night as they have to wake up early morning to go into work. They have different types of Iftars every night and the last ten nights at this Masjid is truly magical. From post-Taraweeh Tea parties to beautiful Qiyams most of the night, it’s my favourite place to be during the last ten nights. Apart from Masjid iftars, there are many free community Iftars that happen all throughout the city that are a great place to network with other Muslims and also have a fun night in NYC 
9. Since you moved from Bangladesh more than 10 years ago, do you still remember Ramadan in Bangladesh? How does it compare to Ramadan in NYC?
 Ramadan in Bangladesh was very different than Ramadan in the States. In Bangladesh, most schools were closed during Ramadan and work ended early for most people as well. This was a blessing I only realized after moving the States where we don’t really have any days off during Ramadan. As a kid, I remember basically sleeping all day and then waking up early afternoon and wait for Iftar. Everyday Iftar was made at home from scratch and after Iftar, we would all go to Taraweeh just like we do in NYC but everything was just a little more laid back in Bangladesh. Somedays I would go out with my Mom before some special Iftar foods from outside, I wish I had a picture but this was before the iPhone days…the streets were filled with food! I mean at every corner there was a guy frying something yummy. We do have restaurants nearby my current home in NYC that serve Bengali Iftars but it could never compare to those street goodies 
10. What unique dishes do your family usually eat during Ramadan for Suhur and iftar?
Typical Bengali iftar plate For Suhur, in Bangladesh, we had a full fledged feast every night that consisted of rice; chicken; fish; daal; any other Bengali food you can think of. One of my favourite Bengali Suhur staples was “Aam Dudh Bhaat” white rice with milk and mangoes. However, in America most nights for me and my husband it’s cereal with milk and sometimes just water when we are running late.
11. How do you celebrate Eid in NYC? How is a typical day like?
 Eid in NYC is grand and I mean really grand. We go all out for Eid, from decorating the house to doing fireworks in the backyard; it’s a spectacular occasion. My husband puts up “Eid Mubarak” banner on our front door with beautiful lights and even our non-Muslim neighbours love them. A typical Eid day goes like this: wake up for Fajr then shower and get ready for the huge Eid Prayer in the open field in Queens. After the prayer, we go to like twenty different houses and eat delicious food. Me and my husband put a lot of effort every Eid on Eid gifts for family members and we custom make Eid envelopes and give them out to all the kids in the family. The kids love that $10 for ice cream. 
After visiting all the close family members, we try to make some time for friends and we go home around late afternoon as the tradition is that everyone comes to our place at night. I help my mother in law set up all the delicious food she cooks before Eid day and it’s an open house from that point on. I am 100% sure we have had more than 100 guests on past Eids and it’s just so wonderful. Everyone enjoys the food and the kids love playing in the backyard and my father in law always ends the night by doing fireworks for all the kids. And Amina wraps up our New York piece for Ramadan Around The World ❤️ Head over to our Ramadan Around The World section to read more inspiring stories of Muslims around the world 😊