Ramadan is the Holy Month of Spiritual Growth for Black Muslims, Too

Ramadan, the most sacred time for Muslims, is expected to be observed and celebrated from sundown on Sunday, March 10, to sundown on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. However, the exact beginning and ending are based on the sighting of the first crescent moon on the night of the Islamic calendar’s eighth month, Sha’ban.

During Ramadan, the name of the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, almost two billion Muslims worldwide are expected to celebrate by fasting, praying, inner reflecting, exercising humility, and engaging in charitable behaviors. Ramadan is the month in which Muslims believe that the Holy Quran was revealed in 610 AD to give guidance and direction to men and women of faith for their salvation.

Fasting is a key component of celebrating Ramadan because Muslims believe fasting demonstrates “spiritual discipline” that draws the spirit of Allah (God) closer to those who observe the Holy Month in truth. Fasting means Muslims must refrain from eating or drinking – including water – from dawn to sunset during Ramadan.

“The Quran states that fasting was prescribed for believers so that they may be more conscious of God,” said Mohammad Hassan Khalil, professor of religious studies and director of the Muslim Studies Program at Michigan State University. “By abstaining from things that people tend to take for granted – such as water – it is believed, one may be moved to reflect on the purpose of life and grow closer to the creator and sustainer of all existence.”

In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset during Ramadan, Kahlil said Muslims must also refrain from sexual activities, condescending thinking, and negative behaviors during those observed periods.

While individuals can observe Ramadan privately, families often celebrate in unity by waking up for “suhoor,” the pre-dawn meal, and joining each other for the “iftar,” the fast-breaking meal. Practicing humility, gratitude, and empathy for people less fortunate are hallmark virtues amplified even more during Ramadan by all Muslims.

When Ramadan is celebrated this year, several players in the NBA, including Kyrie Irving of the Dallas Mavericks, are expected to observe the Holy Month. He explained his journey of celebrating Ramadan, including fasting.

“It’s a journey with God. I am not alone in this,” Irving said in national interviews. “I have brothers and sisters all around the world that are fasting with me. We hold our prayers and our meditations very sacred and when you come out here, I mean, God’s inside me, God’s inside you, God’s inside all of us. So, I am walking with faith, and that’s all that matters. All praise is due to God, Allah, for this…for me, in terms of my faith and what I believe in, being part of the Muslim community, being committed to Islam.”

In addition to Irving, other notable NBA players – past and present – observe Ramadan, including Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics, Omer Yurtseven of the Utah Jazz, Enes Kanter (Enes Kanter Freedom), formerly of the Celtics and Houston Rockets. Former NBA superstars and Muslims Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon have celebrated Ramadan during their long NBA careers. The late three-time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammed Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, after converting to Islam and joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, observed and celebrated Ramadan while training for some of his biggest fights.


At the end of Ramadan, all Muslims worldwide celebrate by gathering in their homes, mosques, parks, and community centers for special prayers and festive activities that show love and unity.

“The end of Ramadan marks the beginning of the major Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr, the festival of the breaking of the fast,” said Khalil. “On this day, many Muslims attend a religious service, visit relatives and friends, and exchange gifts.”

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately four million Muslims are living in the United States. Black Muslims represent about 20% of all Muslims in America. And half of the Black Muslims living in the United States, the Pew Research Center reports, have converted to Islam as opposed to being born into the religion. Pew also reports that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world.

From a historical perspective, it shouldn’t be surprising that a growing number of African Americans are being identified as Muslims. Black Historians – and others who know and are willing to tell the truth – say that of the total number of enslaved Africans transported from the Mother Land to the New World over a span of 400 years, between 10% and 30% were from African countries with a history linked to Muslim/Islamic cultures, including Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria. This history of Islam in those African countries is deep-rooted as early as the 8th century.

Of course, captive slaves with Muslim/Islamic history “were forced” to drop their Islamic identities from Africa – for the most part – to embrace Christianity during slavery in America.

Nevertheless, many of today’s Black Muslims in America – even if converted – stand on the shoulders of pioneering organizations and groups with pro-Islamic ideology stemming in some cases more than 100 years ago. Such historic organizations with American roots include The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (established in 1920), the Moorish Science Temple of America (founded in 1913), and the Nation of Islam (founded in Detroit in 1930).

In 1964, Malcolm X was credited with bringing many Black American Muslims into mainstream Islam after returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca (the birthplace of the Islamic faith). In Mecca, Malcolm had witnessed true Islam that included praying and worshiping with Muslims of all colors and ethnicities, not just Black people.

Today, in the United States, it is estimated that about 73% of American Muslims are Sunni, 16% Shia, and smaller percentages identify with the Nation of Islam, Ahmadiyya, or are non-denominational.

In addition to Muslims celebrating Ramadan worldwide, a growing number of people from other religions, or with no religious affiliations, have joined in observing Ramadan and adhering to its practices and major pillars.


In a feature story published last year, Time Magazine wrote that many non-Muslims are now observing and celebrating Ramadan for a bevy of reasons, including taking the opportunity to learn more about the Muslim faith and its spiritual tenets. Other non-Muslims said that they celebrate Ramadan to support Muslim friends or receive the mental and spiritual benefits of fasting. Some said they observe Ramadan to practice self-imposed discipline.


“The month of Ramadan contains many attributes and blessings,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “It is a month of fasting to grow in awe of Allah, cultivating sincerity, renewing patience, standing at night in prayer, and commiserating with the needy and oppressed. This magnificent and blessed month also has built into it the qualities of compassion and forgiveness.”









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