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Ozarks Muslims Celebrate Eid After Summer Month of Fasting

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Jennifer Moore
/
KSMU Radio

Religious Muslims in the United States just finished a month of fasting from all food and drink during daylight hours. 

On Friday, scores of families gathered at the mosque in Springfield to celebrate the the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, which ended the month of Ramadan.

I walked to the back door, which is the women’s entrance to the mosque.

The Islamic Center of Springfield is located on Division Street.

Like most mosques, it’s segregated by gender, according to tradition—with men and women worshipping in separate rooms. I opened the door.

Inisde, women were dressed in bright, colorful clothes. They were exchanging robust hugs and kisses to the cheek, congratulating each other on completing the fast.

Some were wearing the two-piece shalwar khameez traditional to south-central Asia;  others donned long, straight,

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Credit Jennifer Moore / KSMU Radio
Women and girls leave their shoes at the entrance to the carpeted prayer hall.

beaded jalabayas from the Arab world. 

The languages of French, Urdu, Arabic, and English floated about the room. And the smell of bukhoor, or wood incense soaked in perfume, permeated throughout.

Most people there had gone an entire 30 days skipping food and water from sunrise to sunset. Since Ramadan is determined by the lunar calendar, it doesn’t always fall in the summer months like this year.

“I’m a physician. And right now, I’m a stay-at-home mom with my kids,” said Dr. Navira Haque, who was born in Kansas City studied medicine in Pakistan.

“It may be hard, a little bit, in the first few days, but then you get used to it,” she said of fasting the long, hot summer days.

“I think your metabolism slows down, and it’s very relaxing for the body,” Haque said.

A grainy speaker was broadcasting the adthan, or call to prayer, over and over.

Women took their shoes off before entering the prayer hall.

Inside the prayer hall, about 50 women and girls stood in rows, side by side, on large, decorative carpets. There were no chairs, except one in the back for an elderly woman.

The Eid prayer itself is a series of standing, bowing, and prostrating, led by the imam over the speaker system. There’s a mirror-glass window through which the women can see the imam, and several of the men, but the men cannot see through to the women's side.

Afterward, there was a brief sermon, and then they all headed back out into the activity room.

Mona, a mother of four, came through the door carrying a basket of goodie-bags, filled with candy and peanuts to hand out.

This Ramadan was her first to fast far away from her home of Saudi Arabia, she said.

She’s learning English at Missouri State University’s English Language Institute in downtown Springfield so that she can return to the Persian Gulf country and teach English as a second language.

Her studies here are funded by the Saudi Ministry of Education.

I asked her which she prefers: fasting here or back home in the Middle East.

She asked me if she could answer in Arabic—and I speak Gulf Arabic, so I said, “Go ahead.”

“The truth is, in Saudi [Arabia], for sure. Because in Saudi, I can hear the adthan. There are mosques nearby. And we can go to pray the late-night Taraweeh prayers,” Mona said.

I asked if they offer Taraweh prayers here at the Springfield mosque.

“Yes, they do have Taraweeh prayers here. But I’m far away [from the mosque here]. In Saudi, I can walk to  a mosque next to my house. I can walk, then come back. And my kids can do the same,” she said in her native tongue.

Back in Saudi Arabia, Mona covers her face, hair, and body in black, flowing fabric. Here, she foregoes the niqab, or face veil, but she still covers her hair.

I asked Mona if the people here in Springfield have been kind to her.

She said the people in Springfield are very, very kind to her.  Everyone smiles at her, she said, and people have rushed to meet her needs.

Everyone lined up to get their plastic forks and Styrofoam plates as the celebration ended in a potluck—an international smorgasbord that mirrored the diversity of this religious community.