Muslims will begin the holy month of Ramadan on Friday, marking the first under President Trump, who has been critical of them.
Married couple Sajid Majid and Sarah Syed said it's common for fellow Muslims to eat everything under the sun this time of year.
The reason is because of Ramadan.
Celebrated by Muslims worldwide, Ramadan is a month of fasting beginning Friday and running through June 25. Each day during Ramadan Muslims don't eat or drink from dawn to sunset. They also pray five times a day.
Majid, of Newark, said many Muslims gain weight during the holy month because they overeat and load up on unhealthy foods. He, however, has avoided that pitfall by eating nutritious foods such as dates and fruit salad, causing him to lose about 7 pounds during Ramadan.
On the weekends, he'll sometimes indulge in eating junk food with his friends, he said.
Majid's petite wife, Syed, said she typically gains about 4 or 5 pounds during the fast. “I'm one of the lucky ones,” she said with a laugh. Yet she's not worried about it since “I have a fast metabolism.”
Importance of Ramadan
Syed explained there are great benefits to fasting during Ramadan.
“It's also about building your relationship with the Quran. People should read it more and understand it more,” she said. “It's also about improving your relationship more with other people, being mindful of the way you're speaking and not swearing.”
Syed and Majid are members of the Islamic Society of Delaware and pray at ISD's mosque in Newark.
Abdul-Hadi Shehata, who's the imam at the mosque – a person who leads prayers, said Ramadan can help Muslims grow their compassion for others.
“It makes us sympathize with the poor and needy by gaining a sense of their suffering from the hardships of hunger and thirst,” Shehata said.
“That's why it's been reported that the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, during the month of Ramadan was more generous, much more than any other month,” he said. “You can talk about hunger and thirst forever, but when you feel it, it's completely different.”
Majid said he's only felt faint once during Ramadan. That was back when he was in the eighth grade. These days, his biggest struggle is surviving the fast in the afternoon.
“You get really sleepy,” the 33-year-old said. “Around 12 or 3 p.m. you're like, 'oh man, I still have a couple hours left to go.' But come 5 or 6 o'clock, you're like, 'I can do it.'
Muslims and Trump
This year's Ramadan will be the first under President Donald Trump, who isn’t the most popular president among Muslims.
Earlier this year, Trump rocked the boat when he tried to impose a ban on citizens from seven Muslims countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. His stated reason for the ban was to prevent terrorists from coming into this country.
During Trump's presidential campaign, and after, he's made insensitive remarks about Muslims. Additionally, his supporters have done the same, especially on social media.
Usman Sandhu, president of the Islamic Society of Central Delaware, said scrutiny of Muslims today is very high.
“[Trump] brought the hate out from under the table and brought it onto the table, so it's a free-for-all now,” he said. “You never had the kind of language that's being used today. It was ever used before, not even after [Sept. 11, 2011].
“Nobody talked about banning Muslims, even after 9/11,” Sandhu said. “Actually President Bush, the day after 9/11, went to a mosque in DC and stood next to Muslims and said you're all Americans like we are. Even at that point there was no talk of a Muslim ban.”
The president of the ISCD said though he feels more stares and scrutiny for being Muslim now more than ever, it's coming from “a very small minority.”
‘We are American’
Syed admitted she also feels the stares. At the same time, she explained there are more people who support their beliefs today than she's ever experienced.
“There's a lot more people making an effort to be positive,” said Syed, 32, who moved from India to America when she was around 2. “I expected negative [confrontations], especially since Trump is president. But I've only had positive experiences.”
Her husband said they've been harassed three times since 9/11. The latest was last year when he and his friend, a black Muslim, were pulled over in Philadelphia for accidentally driving through a red light.
“An entourage of cops came in and were like, 'you're going to have to get out of the car,” Majid said. “They were like, 'you're going to have to put your hands on the trunk.' And they searched my car, thinking we were doing drugs or something.”
Aside from that incident, Majid said he routinely sees hate speech about Muslims on social media. But no one has ever said anything to him or his wife in person.
“I'm waiting for people to ask questions like, 'aren't you supposed to bomb us all?’” said Majid, who was born and raised in Chicago.
At the end of the day, the Newark couple said all they want is for Americans to respect them as equals.
“We may wear something different, but we're still human inside. And we are American,” Syed said. “It's as much my country as it is yours.”