When Pious Ali fasts during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, it reminds him how lucky he is and how so many people in the world are struggling to survive.

“Some of us can afford to eat three meals a day, but others in the world can’t. By fasting we learn how that feels,” Ali, a Portland city councilor, said Friday night. “By fasting you learn about the privileges God has given you.”

Abdikadir Abayle leads Muslim worshipers in prayer at the Masjidu Salaam mosque in Lewiston on Friday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Ramadan, which takes place each year in the ninth month of Muslim calendar, was to begin Saturday at sunrise. The exact starting day is not known each year until a new crescent moon is spotted, which occurred Friday over Saudi Arabia.

Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, Ali said, meaning they can eat breakfast, if they get up early enough, and dinner, but for the 12 hours or so in between they fast. They also abstain from drinking or smoking and other “pleasures,” Ali said.

“Fasting has a lot of significance, we believe it brings us close to God, close to our families,” he said.

The dinners at the end of each day are often big meals with lots of family and friends. It’s like having “30 Thanksgivings,” Ali said – though because of the pandemic, the gatherings might not be as big as in some years.


Ramadan commemorates the time that God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad the Quran, Islam’s holy book. So the month is also a time of prayer and of introspection.

Giving to charity and helping others is also a big part of Ramadan, Ali said. People who can’t fast – because of a medical condition, for instance – and can afford it, are supposed to estimate how much they spend on food in a day and give that amount to someone who has less than they do.

The exact ending day of Ramadan won’t be known until a new moon is sighted, Ali said. But when that happens, people will break their fasts. In Portland there’s usually public prayers in a park or other open space followed by food and a hearty meal.


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