Hinsdale man embraces Ramadan to feed his soul

Today, Hinsdale’s Aris Musabji and his family will join with Muslims around the world in observance of Ramadan, a month-long celebration marked by fasting, prayer and community.

The annual holiday, which commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation, falls in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a timing based the moon.

“It starts at the beginning of the new moon and lasts for one lunar cycle,” Musabji said.

Traditionally the family would head to their mosque in Streamwood in the evenings for prayers, fellowship and food.

“It’s all about community, this whole month,” he said. “You come home, get the kids in the car and go to the mosque.”

The practice of fasting, from dawn to dusk, is central to Ramadan. Musabji said relinquishing coffee is his toughest hurdle, but after a couple days his withdrawal symptoms wear off, assisted by a special regimen.

“I have a shot of espresso before I go to bed,” revealed Musabji, a radiologist at Palos Park Community Hospital.

Once the sun sets, the special meal of iftar is served to break the fast, typically enjoyed in community, Of course, this is not a typical year.

“Under normal circumstances, we try to do it with the community at the mosque,” he said. “We usually have some nights we host our non-Muslim friends and neighbors at our home and at the mosque for an interfaith iftar.”

Shelter-in-place restrictions mean no midnight barbecue with his male friends — which had become a regular Ramadan custom — and no bake-off to raise funds for organizations like Feed My Starving Children or the mosque’s homeless outreach.

“We’re going to have to get creative this year,” he said.

Serving alongside his children — Amaan, a Hinsdale Central sophomor;, Sabil, a Clarendon Hills Middle School seventh-grader; and Zahra, a fourth-grader at Monroe School — underscores for all a key tenet of their faith.

“If you’ve done good for someone, then that has a positive impact in life,” Musabji said. “It just kind of helps you think beyond yourself.”

Unfortunately, there won’t be gatherings beyond the home this year, But with a busy household, he thinks the forced family time is also a blessing.

“This is a unique opportunity in that sense for us. It’ll be a great time for our immediate family,” he said. “This is quality time for us.”

The internal check-ins are also meaningful. Musabji said Ramadan leads him on a journey of self-reflection.

“I always look forward to Ramadan so I can do that reset, become more God-conscious and remind yourself of your ethics and morals and values,” he said. “If you are willing to change, then there’s hope for you.”

So when greeting a neighbor or friend marking the occasion, extend a “Ramadan Kareem!” or “Ramadan Mubarak!”

“We’re all here for a little period of time and then we’re gone,” Musabji said. “What we do with our life matters.”

— story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean