No food, no music, no TV, no problem for Harun McGraw.
The month of fasting and sacrificing material luxuries is no longer the difficult part of Ramadan for the 23-year-old converted Muslim. It is the realization of realities that take the place of those distractions that make the holy month a challenge.
“It’s a time of self reflection. It’s like detox,” McGraw said. “It’s a time to see your own character and deficits and you start to see things you dislike in yourself.”
McGraw just finished observing his fourth Ramadan along with the members of the Islamic Society of Northern Illinois University. Ramadan is considered the most holy month of the year for Muslims, who fast every day during that time from dawn until sunset and increase prayers and focus on the Quran.
Charity also is a focus during the month.
Mohammed Labadi, board member with the Islamic Society, said Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. And just like Christmas and Easter can be for some Christians, Ramadan is a time when Muslims who do not practice their religion throughout the year come back to the mosque.
Labadi said it is not uncommon to see attendance at prayer times double, even at the earliest ones at 4:30 a.m. where there will be up to 12 people instead of the usual two or three.
“It’s a very special time and a clear and focused time on the worship of God,” Labadi said. “People start coming in because of the holiness of the month.”
And leaders of the Islamic Society of NIU hope this Ramadan will be the last time members have to come to the small mosque located on 721 Normal Road.
The group is in the process of fundraising for a new two-story mosque on 801 Normal Road that was recently approved by the DeKalb City Council. The new facility is needed to provide more room for the 60 families and nearly 300 students the Islamic Society serves.
The end of Ramadan holiday, Eid-ul-Fitr, was one of many fundraisers the society has held to reach a goal of $500,000. Aiman Mustafa, an NIU graduate and board member, said the group has $300,000 in pledges and money raised.
Mustafa said he is excited to see the students back at school because members of the Muslim Students Association at NIU will give the society a boost with their energy and dedication. He said some students are already talking to their families overseas about donating to the project.
“This is for the students,” Mustafa said of the mosque. “It’s very important for them as well as the community in the area in meeting spiritual needs.”
McGraw, a Chicago native, agreed with Mustafa as the mosque is the only one in the county and the closest place of worship for Muslims outside of Aurora. During the summer, McGraw said he is able to go mosques in the city, but during his school year at Kishwaukee College, he relies on the resources and leadership provided by the Islamic Society.
“It’s exciting,” he said of the new mosque.
Labadi said the group plans on bringing designs to the City Council in the next few weeks.