American Muslims Celebrate Ramadan

November 25, 2000

Source: The Times-Picayune

On November 25, 2000, The Times-Picayune reported that "Palestinian-born Karem Abdullah, his wife and their two young sons plan to leave their Metairie home and go to the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain at sunset today and Sunday to try to sight the new moon...Of about 5,000 Muslims in the New Orleans area, possibly hundreds are expected to be outdoors for the same purpose, on both shores of the lake, on sections bordering the Mississippi River and on the few manmade hills around, anywhere that gives them a clear and broad view of the horizon. They will be among at least 2 million Muslims in the United States and Canada awaiting the first sight of the new moon as a glowing, thin crescent. When that sighting is confirmed by Muslim scholars and astronomers at the heart of a national network, it will mean that Ramadan, Islam's holy month of fasting, prayer and charitable giving, will be launched the following morning, said Ashfaq Lodhi, a director of the Islamic Society of North America. The U.S. Naval Observatory reports that the new moon officially will be born today shortly after 5 p.m. Central Standard Time, Lodhi said. But in determining when Ramadan will start, the moon must not only be born but also visible, according to religious tradition, he said. His organization's authorities do not think people will be able to be see the moon tonight, but that they will Sunday night, so Ramadan probably will begin Monday...The system includes three astronomers, who will interview people who call in possible sightings, and a six-member group, mostly scholars of Islam, who will make the final determination of when a new moon has been seen, Lodhi said. After the decision has been made, it will be posted on the Internet at the society's Web site,, and the verdict will be passed on to people who call to inquire, often the imams of local mosques. This process of determining Ramadan's start in North America has been going on at least a decade, Lodhi said. It was established after immigrants from Middle Eastern countries with Muslin governments found they had no official to tell them when the holy month began here, and it was nurtured by America's grass-roots ethos, he said...The monthlong fast the moon heralds is like a yearly workshop in which Muslims concentrate on self-restraint, such as learning to control their tempers, as well as on deeply identifying with the poor, who often are hungry and thirsty, he said. 'It's a great opportunity God gave us.'"