Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan, will begin tonight after sundown. Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim calendar, is observed by fasting during the day. The fast isn’t just deprivation of food from sunrise to sunset – Muslims also refrain from drinking any liquid, including water, during that time. Daily meals eaten before dawn are known as suhoor, and meals to break the fast after sunset are called iftar.
“I think a lot of people mistakenly think of it as a thing that you suffer through,” said Zohran Mamdani, the field director for Ross Barkan’s campaign against Republican state Sen. Marty Golden. “It’s actually a beautiful time.”
Aliya Latif, manager of Immigrants Affairs and Muslim and South Asian Relations for New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, also said that she found meaning in observing Ramadan while carrying out her duties at work, calling the month “exhausting and exhilarating.”
“My job is service to both my city and my community. This is faith in action for me,” Latif said. “So I think that the challenge is an opportunity to push ourselves harder, to give back in ways that we didn’t think we could have.”
Mamdani said it could be challenging to manage field duties while fasting, especially during the last few hours before iftar, joking that he had “Ramadan brain” where it was difficult to concentrate. However, he also discussed how breaking the fast sometimes turned into a campaign event, as he has celebrated iftar with community members, especially since Bay Ridge has a large Muslim population.
“It's nice to both break my fast with community members and have that moment of joy, and then also at the same time it's a chance for Ross and other people on the campaign to interact with other people they might not otherwise get the chance to meet,” Mamdani said.
For another Muslim working in politics, fasting isn’t actually the biggest challenge. “I am not proud about this, but it’s pretty common for me to sometimes forget to eat lunch so refraining from food and drink during Ramadan is not the most challenging aspect of fasting while at work,” said Faiza Ali, co-director of the Community Outreach Unit of the Community Engagement Division at the New York City Council. “If you’re up early for the pre-dawn meal and participating in late night prayer, there isn’t much time for sleep so that starts to play out a little mid-afternoon.” Ali said she wakes up at around 3:15 every morning for suhoor. Like Mamdani, she often celebrates iftar with members of her community.
New York, particularly in New York City, has a relatively high Muslim population compared to other states. According to the Pew Research Center, 2 percent of adults in New York state identify as Muslim.
New York City Councilman I. Daneek Miller, the only Muslim elected official in New York City or in the state Legislature, is not fasting Ramadan this year, as he is recovering from an injury. However, he said he is still observing the holiday, by reading the Quran and Muslim scholars.
“It has afforded me this opportunity to really delve down spiritually,” Miller said about enforced rest due to neck surgery. In other years, he has schlepped around his district and City Hall for Council duties while still maintaining the fast.
“It’s by far the busiest month, because nothing else changes, and you’re fasting. You have very, very limited energy,” Miller said. But, he said, the difficulty was eased his office, other Council members and his community were supportive during Ramadan.
Like Miller, Ali said that she found Ramadan to be an extremely spiritual experience.
“Fasting during the month of Ramadan allows you to reflect on your relationship to God and responsibility to community,” she said.
Latif said that she will be spending as much time as possible with her family for Eid al-Fitr. Mamdani will be celebrating the holiday with the campaign, attending morning prayers near Bay Parkway in Brooklyn, which is attended by thousands of people.
This is the first time that Mamdani is observing Ramadan fully in many years. “I've been surprised to find that I wanted to keep going. I initially thought that I would just count the days down,” he said. “I'm hardly looking forward to a time without Ramadan.”