Muslims in Katy observe Ramadan
The sun is about to set at 8 p.m. and Hamza Bui and his step-daughter Fatima Amy Williams are getting ready to break their Ramadan fast for the day with dates, mangoes and water.
"Breaking this way is an authentic tradition of Prophet Muhammad," said Bui. Other snack foods like spicy South Asian dumplings called pakoras and triangle-shaped savories called samosas stuffed with peas and potatoes are also often on the menu. This meal is called "Iftar."
Fatima, 10, gladly drank the water. She started fasting for Ramadan last year, but said it's still not easy. "My sister would eat and then I would want to," she said. While her 4-year-old sister Jannah ate, Williams, distracted herself to keep her mind off hunger and thirst. "I do anything that doesn't involve food, like playing," said Williams.
Her dad agreed. "If I don't see food then I'm fine, but if I see it, then I start thinking about it," Bui said.
Ramadan started on Aug. 1 and lasts till Aug. 29, ending with Eid al-Fitr on Aug. 30. This monthlong observance commemorates the time when Muslims believe their holy book, the Qur'an, was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in 610 AD. Many Muslims, aside from small children, pregnant women, travelers and the elderly, fast for the duration of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset.
It is a time for Muslims in Katy and around the world to pray and reflect on the less fortunate.
An estimated 200,000 Muslims live in the greater Houston area. Bui said the number in Katy is growing because of its proximity to the Energy Corridor, which attracts engineers from overseas. Born in Vietnam, Bui has lived in many cities across Texas before settling in Katy last year.
"Katy is a tolerant place," said Bui, who converted to Islam in 1996.
Bui is the community development director at the Muslim American Society-Katy, which has a 300-member congregation. The number of children attending the Houston Qur'an Academy classes located at the Katy Center, 1800 Barker Road, has increased, he said.
Members pray in a portable school building, but a new mosque is in the works, with construction starting in 2012.
The center recently invited the community to join members to break the fast and learn about Ramadan. From Thursdays to Sundays, food is prepared for 250 people.
For additional information, email email@example.com, visit www.mashouston.org/ or call 281-717-4622.
Muslim families like Bui's start their days before dawn to have breakfast and pray. Throughout the day, five prayers are said. "Also you avoid backbiting, slander, arguing and fighting," Bui said.
Muslims also abstain from sexual relations, go to the mosque nightly and donate a percentage of their income to the less fortunate. This act of giving is called "zakah," which means "to purify."
"One purifies his or her wealth by giving a certain portion to the people who need it," said Bui.
The toughest challenge is not drinking water, especially for those who work outside in the scorching heat.
"Ramadan is a time of discipline," Bui said. "Not being able to eat and drink during the day makes Muslims see what it is like to be in need of the basic necessities; so this makes us feel more compassionate toward the less fortunate."
Although their children are still young, Bui and his wife, Teena Brown, said they still want them to know the importance of Ramadan.
"We want them to be practicing Muslims when they are adults; so the best time to teach them is now," said Bui.
Williams said she recently participated in a canned food drive at her Islamic school.
"We are sending the food to Somalia because people there don't have a lot of food," said Williams.
She also can already recite parts of the Qur'an with her father during evening prayers.
"My wife and I try to teach our kids Islam through our own example," he said.
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