Like a thief in search of spiritual fulfillment, I tiptoe through the dark house, careful not to wake up its inhabitants. I pass the doors to silent rooms, filled with drowsiness, where my family is resting. It is almost dawn when while snacking and drinking water, I warm the leftovers and feel anxious as I prepare for a long day of fasting. I eat a meal that would be my last until sunset the next day.

I stand, facing east to pray, reciting the sacred chant, ancient words in Arabic revealed some 14 centuries ago that gave birth to Islam, the youngest Abrahamic religion. I imagine the poetic verses floating in the dark room, finding wings to rise up through the empty attic to the starlit Maine sky, to soar to the heavens above. I pray for those going without food, not by choice, all year round, for Ramadan, the month of blessing, is far from being a time of hardship but one to ask for atonement and find empathy for the poor and the hungry.

I go outside to sit, star-gazing and watching the sky change colors. The subdivision where I live is quiet and dark.

I recall the Ramadan of my childhood in Iran, in a faraway city, lost to a war that few remember now. There was a sense of exhilaration: Most adults were up, for the work hours during the Holy Month of Ramadan would be flexible, the elders would recite verses from the Qur’an, for the tradition called for the Holy Book to be read, sura by sura, chapter by chapter, throughout the month. No leftovers, for dishes special to Ramadan were made for the family.

Though as children we were too young to fast, we woke up to share in the revered occasion, knowing full well that hours later, there’d be a breakfast waiting for us, made by adults who were themselves fasting.

In the distant past, in bigger cities in Iran, the signal to stop eating and start the fast would be announced by the boom of a single cannon. In smaller towns, like ours, before the age of alarm clocks and radios, volunteers moved swiftly through the narrow and winding lanes of neighborhoods, beating the ground and the outside walls with long sticks, to wake up the households. Out of respect, they’d avoid houses belonging to the town’s Jewish, Armenian, Assyrian and Yezidi families, and those too old or ill to fast. Years later in America, I read about such time-tested reverence for one’s neighbors belonging to a different faith tradition in Ariel Sabar’s “My Father’s Paradise.” In the book, which tells the story of his Jewish father and ancestors living in Kurdistan, Iraq, Sabar vividly portrays an era, which though lasting until the 1950s and 1960s, is lost in contemporary consciousness, where the local Jewish inhabitants would not eat in the presence of their fasting Muslim neighbors during Ramadan. Similarly, Muslim men, greeting their Jewish neighbors on their way to the synagogue on a Shabbat, would put out their cigarettes. The story could have been the same in many parts of the Middle East, including Iran, where the children of Abraham were known to treat one another with care and respect. I recall the Middle East of my childhood, before being wrecked by the turmoil of invasions, occupations, and civil wars of recent years, as a paradise of sort.

Back inside the dark house, I bring my forehead to touch the floor in worship and humility. I pray for America, the open and inclusive society that it strives to be, to duplicate a time, similar to what existed in Kurdistan, Iraq, or Iran, or in the Muslim-ruled Spain of centuries ago, for the nation’s Jews, Christians, and Muslims, among others, to see each other as children of the same God and live together peacefully.

Reza Jalali advises Muslim students at the University of Southern Maine and Bowdoin College. He’s the author of “Moon Watchers, Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle,” a children’s book about Ramadan.