I often think about my circle of friends and bemoan the fact that it’s pretty monochromatic. Where are my multi-continental, varied cultures, and multiple spiritual beliefs friends? What do I need to do to meet more people who are unlike me? I need to start by doing new things and having new adventures if I’m going to meet new people, right? YES!
I met Glory Ali from Muslim Travel Rocks a few years ago and my small life has been better ever since!
I didn’t have any Muslim friends and I don’t think I knew anyone who was Muslim. My friendship with Glory has deepened into sisterhood and a desire to learn more about being an ally to her and my future Muslim friends.
I attended a Ramadan program at the Birmingham Islamic Society to learn more about the religion and beliefs and to share a meal. BIS offers this program each year as an opportunity for the local community to engage with Muslims and to help break down stereotypes.
The night began with an explanation of the five pillars (shahada – faith, salat – prayer, zakat – alms, sawm – fasting, and hajj – pilgrimage) and six articles (to believe in the Oneness of God, to believe in the Angels, to believe in the books of Allah, to believe in all the Prophets, to believe in the Day of Judgement, and to believe in the Divine Decree) of Islam.
Then we broke the fast by eating dates and drinking water. The call to prayer was next with women and men worshiping separately. We were offered a tour of the prayer hall afterwards and dinner with opportunities for questions and answers followed.
Islam is a religion based on love (not fear), honor and sacrifice. Muslims are committed to improving their community in multiple ways including donating to the poor, staffing free clinics, and participating in Habitat for Humanity. Muslims also come in every shape and shade of humanity. The consistent persecution they face is unjust, unfair, and wrong. Muslims are just people, like you and I.
I left the evening with an improved commitment to justice and love. Glory taught me Muslims believe smiling at another person is an act of kindness and I try to remember that when I travel. I seldom think of smiling in an airport because I am always just trying to get from “A” to “B” without encouraging creeps. Now I try to be more aware of acknowledging people with a smile. There is always a general sense of suspicion towards brown people, more so if we are wearing perceived religious dress. And there is no historical proof that brown religious people are more dangerous than white religious people. Don’t believe everything in the media, people are people.
Glory and I have yet to traveled together during Ramadan but these are the ways I can support her, and my future Muslim friends, when we do:
- Respect the fast: I love food and food adventures. But I will respect the fast and plan meals around it. If I need to eat during the fast, I will do so discreetly.
- Help watch the clock: the fast is based on the Islamic lunar calendar and there are apps available to verify the correct time. I will make sure we stay on schedule.
- Protect prayer time: prayer times may occur when you are out and about. I will make sure there is a place for prayer and, if prayer must happen in public, protect my friends while they pray.
- Serve in love: friendship is a privilege, a special connection with someone that you grow to love. Anything you do for that person should come from love including respecting their religious beliefs and practices.
- Know the restaurant hours: many restaurants will be closed until it’s time to break the fast if you are visiting Muslim countries during Ramadan. I will check the restaurant hours to verify the times and ensure we are there in time to break the fast.
Have you traveled with your Muslim friends during Ramadan? Do you know additional ways to support them? Let me know and I’ll update this list. Special shout out to Emily from @TwoDustyTravelers for capturing this moment between us.