Reflections Of Ramadan From Childhood For the past month, Muslims around the world have been fasting in observance of Ramadan. Regular contributor Arsalan Iftikhar and his friend, Rabiah Ahmed, share childhood memories of their families observing the fast.
NPR logo

Reflections Of Ramadan From Childhood

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Reflections Of Ramadan From Childhood

Reflections Of Ramadan From Childhood

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, host: Finally today, normally at this time I have my Can I Just Tell You commentary. But today, as Ramadan comes to a close, we thought we'd hear from of our regular contributors. For the past month, millions of Muslims around the world have been fasting as part of the holy month of Ramadan. That's the month during the year that observant Muslims stop eating food and drinking water during daylight hours. We asked our regular contributor Arsalan Iftikhar to share some of his memories of observing the fast. Arsalan, of course, is an international human rights lawyer. He's global managing editor of the Crescent and a regular contributor to our Barbershop roundtable.

He's joined by his friend, Rabiah Ahmed. She's a board member for "My Faith My Voice," which is an online platform for American Muslims.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: So Rabiah, let me tell you a little bit about what it was like growing up for me during the month of Ramadan in Chicago. I remember that my mom was sort of like a short-order cook. You know, she would take orders from all the kids - what they wanted. You know, I would order an omelet, my sister would order pancakes, and my brother for some reason would always order spaghetti or something really weird. And, you know, we'd have like a full four-course meal at 4 o'clock in the morning growing up in Chicago.

But I remember, you know, from my grandparents, for example, I remember my grandfather, when he used to have his pre-dawn meal in Pakistan, he was building a hospital for women and a school for girls in the rural parts of the desert there. And, you know, in 126-degree weather, he would just have one date and, you know, a glass of water to last him the entire day and he was 84 years old at the time. So, you know, it really, really makes me appreciate everything that we have here in the United States and, you know, how much harder it is for a lot of other people to fast during the month of Ramadan all around the world. So, you know, what was it like for you growing up in Detroit during the month of Ramadan?

RABIAH AHMED: Well, you know, Arsalan, it was a lot like what you're describing in your home, where your mom would wake up, and my mom would wake up and she would make us a huge feast. But an hour before that, what I remember is when - we were lucky to have our grandparents around during the month of Ramadan because they generally lived in Pakistan. One of my favorite memories is when my grandfather would wake up before my mom and he would recite the Koran. Now he was a Hafidh Quran, which means he had memorized the Koran by heart. So he would wake up around 3:00 o'clock in the morning and he would just recite softly. And I could hear him reciting softly as he would pace back and forth down the hall. And it was a really, really beautiful and peaceful time. And that's one of my fondest memories of my grandparents during Ramadan.

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, what's interesting is that, you know, we had the predawn meal, and then, of course, we have the time where you break your fast at sunset. And, you know, everybody always asked, you know, aren't you starving?

AHMED: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

IFTIKHAR: You know, aren't you thirsty? And realistically, like for those of us who fasted all day, you know that your stomach literally shrinks to the size of, you know, a baseball...

AHMED: Right.

IFTIKHAR: ...and you could basically have a chicken drumstick and fill yourself. But psychologically...

AHMED: You're not.

IFTIKHAR:'re not.


AHMED: You're so hungry.

IFTIKHAR: You want to order like three pizzas, you want to have like two calzones, and, you know, you want to eat all this food.

AHMED: Yeah. Yeah.

IFTIKHAR: At the end of it, you're like, oh my god, what did I do?

AHMED: Yeah.

IFTIKHAR: But it's always interesting because of the fact that Ramadan teaches us to appreciate, you know, the psychological impact of that. And so, you know, to appreciate, you know, a glass of water...

AHMED: Excellent.

IFTIKHAR: ...or a chicken wing, you know, that we would normally just scarf down without even thinking about, is something that I think is one of the major lessons of Ramadan.

AHMED: For me, it's also a time to kind of isolate yourself, you know, in your room at nighttime in the dark and just have a conversation with your creator.

IFTIKHAR: And to be honest, you know, one of the things that my wife and I both liked about Ramadan the most was actually coming to your house for iftar dinner, and having some of that good basil chicken that you made.


IFTIKHAR: She makes great Thai food - she can't really make much else.


IFTIKHAR: It was really good.

AHMED: Thank you, I think.


MARTIN: That was Rabiah Ahmed, a board member for "My Faith My Voice." That's an online platform for American Muslims. And we also heard from Arsalan Iftikhar, a regular contributor to TELL ME MORE, an international human rights lawyer and global managing editor of the Crescent

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.