DEARBORN – Thursday, March 23, marks the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims around the world and in the Detroit region will undergo the spiritual and social experience of this holy month of fasting. Muslims in Metro Detroit will return to religious and community gatherings and nightly activities after the receding of fears related to the COVID pandemic, which stripped the blessed month of its spirituality and splendor during the past couple of years.
On the commercial level, restaurants will reopen their doors to receive fasting Muslims by offering special meals and open buffets. Local bakeries and cafes will also open their doors until the early hours of dawn to serve sweets and Suhoor meals, in parallel with the spread of food trucks in many of the main streets and designated areas in the cities of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, in particular.
The month of Ramadan will begin on Thursday, March 23, and will end on Friday, April 21. The number of days of the fasting month will be 29 in some regions and 30 days in others around the globe.
The duration of fasting in Michigan will be about 14 hours per day. Fasting begins on the first day of Ramadan at 5:57 a.m. and at 4:59 a.m. on the last day. Breaking the fast will commence at sunset on the first day, which will be at 8:02 p.m. On the last day, sunset will take place at 8:35 p.m.
Mosques and iftars
Dozens of mosques in the Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Hamtramck and Detroit areas will start special religious programs during Ramadan to educate the public about the teachings of Islam and its tolerant principles. The activities include daily lessons to teach the Holy Qur’an, in addition to educational and jurisprudence lectures targeting both adults and children, during the days and nights of the fasting month, which Muslims hold in a special place.
Officials in several religious centers in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights told The Arab American News that their mosques will continue to provide daily lessons and religious lectures in Arabic and English throughout the day and evening programs, in addition to reciting the Holy Qur’an, opening prayers and religious supplications, with programs also dedicated to women and children.
With the COVID pandemic having receded, many Arab organizations, clubs and Islamic institutions in the Detroit area will hold iftar dinners for the second year in a row. Some Islamic centers will continue to provide iftar meals throughout the holy month, in addition to providing suhoor meals during the last 10 days.
And while most Islamic institutions will stop — this year — distributing food baskets to needy families in the Detroit area due to the cessation of government aid and charitable donations to religious centers during the COVID pandemic during the past three years, some mosques will continue their distribution of the aforementioned baskets, with help and cooperation from relief and non-profit Islamic institutions across the country.
In addition, some centers will provide iftar meals at nominal prices during certain days. The Islamic Center of America on Ford Road in Dearborn will provide iftar meals every Wednesday at a price of $35 for adults and $10 for children, and the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights will offer two iftar gathering dinners at $20 per adult and $10 per child on Friday, April 14 and April 21, in addition to opening the center for fasting people to gather and share the food they prepare in their own homes, in coordination with the administration.
Continuing the mission
As part of the Ramadan activities of mosques in the Detroit region, the Islamic Center of Detroit (ICD) has refrained from setting up tents to receive Muslims who are fasting this year, due to weather fluctuations that prevent these tents from being heated properly and safely, according to Executive Director Sufian Nabhan.
Nabhan explained that the center, which has an annual budget of approximately $5 million, will continue to provide iftar tables throughout Ramadan inside the building for about 300 people on a daily basis, in addition to preparing a Suhoor spread during the last 10 days of the holy month. He pointed out that these meals are “available to all”, regardless of their racial, ethnic or even religious background.
He also made it clear that the mosque, which was established in 2000, will continue to provide food baskets to the poor and needy on Saturdays, between 2:30 and 5 p.m., stressing that people wishing to obtain such baskets can choose the items they need.
“Unlike what we did during the past years, where we used to prepare identical baskets of foodstuffs, people will be able — this season — to choose the food items they want, in order to prevent waste and avoid providing food that some people do not need, such as milk, for example, or some other foods, which people avoid for health reasons,” he said.
Nabhan pointed out that the center will continue to provide hot meals for the elderly and children at the Freedom House Center to accommodate the homeless in Dearborn and Detroit, noting that these meals will be limited to Muslim guests only, according to the terms of the partnership between the ICD and the Islamic institutions that fund this program.
Nabhan indicated that the center will provide a “free nursery” for the children of families who attend the mosque during the holy month, during the period preceding the evening prayer until after the Tarawih prayer.
Nabhan also announced that on April 13 the center will host the Egyptian reciter Yasser Abdel Samad, the son of Sheikh Abdel Basset Abdel Samad, who is considered one of the most famous reciters in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
In the same vein, the American Muslim Society center (aka the Dix mosque) will continue to provide daily iftar meals for about 50 people, in addition to suhoor meals during the last 10 days of the holy month.
Ramadan Nights and the Suhoor Festival
It is expected that Ramadan will regain its usual spirituality and enjoyment in the Arab American capital of the U.S., with the city of Dearborn organizing the “Ramadan Nights” in the city’s West Downtown and the continuation of the “Suhoor Festival” at the Fairlane Mall. What’s more, Dearborn Heights is allowing the operation of food trucks in various designated areas in that city, in order to enrich the social character of the month of fasting, which attracts individuals and families from Southeast Michigan to enjoy Ramadan evenings and the early hours of the morning.
Ramadan Nights will be held along West Village Drive, between Mason and Monroe Streets, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights of every week throughout the holy month, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Ramadan Nights events are distinguished from the other Ramadan activities by providing a public space open to visitors for free. They will include food trucks in one area, equipped with amenities and protection from the cold weather. There will also be a wide variety of restaurants and cafes open in the West Downtown of Dearborn.
The city of Dearborn will also allow food trucks to operate throughout the city in designated areas during the blessed month of Ramadan, in addition to extending working hours for local restaurants and bakeries beyond 2 a.m.
In addition, the “Suhoor Festival” will continue its various activities in a modified and heated version in the parking lot of the Fairlane Mall, on Fridays and Saturdays, as the festival management expects to receive about 10,000 visitors every night.
The festival will be held within an area of more than 75,000 square feet, which will include a 50,000 square foot tent, inside of which all marketing and entertainment activities will take place.
The food trucks will operate within the 25,000 square feet open area.
Suhoor Festival visitors must pay an entry fee of $5 per person and $10 per family. Tickets can be purchased at entry points or on the festival’s website.
It should be noted that Dearborn was scheduled to witness a Ramadan event of a Levantine nature (Shamiat) under the supervision of the Syrian doctor Opada Alzohaili, but this event was canceled due to the short time needed for proper preparations, and will most likely be held during Ramadan next year.