Evanston community members reflect on local Ramadan celebrations


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Community members celebrate the end of Ramadan and reflect on the opportunities available in the Evanston area.

Skye Garcia, Reporter

After the prayers for Eid al-Fitr concluded Monday morning, people poured through the doors of Dar-us-Sunnah Masjid and Community Center in Evanston. Families and friends slipped on their shoes and received golden boxes of Habshi Halwa and Soan Halwa, traditional South Asian desserts. They laughed and embraced on the small lawn in front of the mosque. 

“Coming off of a three year long pandemic, this has definitely been a very special (Ramadan),” said Muhammad Saiduzzaman, one of the founding presidents of Dar-us-Sunnah. He handles the public relations of the Evanston Masjid. 

This year, the holy month of Ramadan began the evening of April 2 and ended Sunday. During the observance, Muslim communities fast from sunrise to sunset and pray the Taraweeh. Celebrations took place all over the Evanston area: at mosques and community centers, at home with friends and family and on Northwestern’s campus. 

Dar-us-Sunnah organized daily Taraweeh prayers and Iftars, evening meals prepared and eaten after sunset during Ramadan. Some locals also organized their own events and celebrated with friends and family. 

Skokie resident Lara Alhaleg is originally from Jordan. She doesn’t have much family in the United States, so she said she spent a lot of time with her friends, her husband and her two-year-old child this Ramadan. The family celebrated the holiday at home and visited friends in the area for small Iftars. 

Two weeks ago, a good friend of Alhaleg rented a local venue and invited Alhaleg and her family for a community Iftar. The host rented a large movie screen and played movies for the children while the adults gathered to talk and celebrate, Alhaleg said.

“It was so nice, so great, to be all together,” she said. 

Alhaleg said she felt close to God and her family during Ramadan. She described the 30-day holiday as a month of forgiveness and mercy and expressed her love for the holy month. 

“It’s to feel your souls come together,” she said. “You are happy with the family gatherings, and with the merciful.” 

Saiduzzaman said Ramadan is a time of hope, especially in hard times. 

He reflected on the adverse effects of the pandemic on his community and remembered the lives lost to the virus. Still, he believes in the possibility of a silver lining. 

“There is a message to humanity,” he said. “There is more to it.”

Saiduzzaman said Ramadan was a time for empathy and compassion. It was a time to think of others, no matter their religious identity. 

He said Dar-us-Sunnah holds numerous events throughout the year — including cookouts, volunteer opportunities and outdoor gatherings — that are open to everyone.

“The door remains open for anyone who wants to come in,” he said. 

The same sentiment was true at Northwestern. The university held several events open to all Evanston residents. 

During the general body meetings, Northwestern’s Muslim-cultural Students Association hosted a series called “The Etiquette of…,” according to the McSA Instagram. The series consisted of several in-person courses discussing the etiquette of some aspects of Islam, like the etiquette of salat, ritual prayers, and dua, the act of supplication. 

Communication freshman Rama Darayyad, the administrative vice president, said McSA wanted the series to be spiritually focused and fun. The first course in the series, discussing the etiquette of salat, had a Kahoot and offered a gift card to local restaurant Habibi In Mediterranean Grill.

McSA also hosted community Iftars throughout Ramadan. Darayyad said the turnout for the first one was greater than expected. 

For Darayyad, the end of Ramadan was bittersweet.

“Sweet because you came out of the month and you are at a spiritual high,” she said. “You want to maintain these good habits, and you want to maintain the relationships that you formed.” 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: Skye Garcia (@SkyeAGarcia) / Twitter 

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