By Keyonna Jones
The evening of June 28th begins the sacred month of Ramadan for Muslims in the United States. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset. Muslims believe that in the last ten days the first verses of the Koran (Qu’ran) were revealed to Prophet Muhammad, making it a remarkably holy period. The holy month is reserved as a period of fasting, prayer, and charity.
Fasting is one of the fundamental religious duties of Islam. It is seen as a tool to develop self-control, overcome selfishness and increase religious devotion. The word “Ramadan” is de-rived from an Arabic word for intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of food and drink. During the daylight hours of Ramadan, many Muslims (except for children, pregnant woman, the sick and elderly) abstain from food, drink, and other activities. Fasting helps Muslims to not just think of comfort and to actually experience what it feels to be uncomfortable. It helps those par-ticipating to appreciate what it may feel like to be unfortunate like millions who go hungry eve-ryday.
America’s Islamic Heritage Museum, located at 2315 Martin Luther King Avenue, SE, has been a place for Muslims East of the River to congregate for Ramadan and other Islamic events for over 3 years. The museum opened to the public April 30, 2011, educating Muslims and non-Muslims in the community about Islam’s influence on American History. Amir Nasir Muhammad, Executive Director of the museum, says before their location in Southeast opened they were a “museum without walls,” collecting and analyzing data since 1996. They operated under the non-profit, Collections and Stories of American Muslims (CSAM).
CSAM traveled around the world, informing and enlightening the public on the early and continued presence of Muslims in America. They have carried their exhibit to various universities like Harvard, Stanford, University of Pittsburg, University of Virginia, as well as various mosques, synagogues, and churches. Muhammad has lived East of the River for 15 years and says the museum’s purpose and its placement is to educate the young men and woman on their history and their worth to society. ”Just as Christians, Muslims, we are taught ‘the truth shall set you free,” he said. “The truth of who we are as Muslims and who we are as human beings, and our contributions, is very important”.
The Islamic Heritage museum and it’s volunteers aim to inform and empower through their exhibits. The mix of photographs, documents, and artifacts create a diverse and successive picture of the Muslim influence in American history, from the earliest navigators up until present day. The museum encourages people of all faiths and backgrounds to experience the history, an-tiques, and relics the have collected from their travels around the world.
On Saturday, June 7, 2014, the museum will having an opening reception for their exhibit, “Muslims Contributions to American Music: From Bee-Bop to Hip-Hop.” It will highlight Muslims’ impact on American music from the early Bee-Bop Jazz musicians of the mid-1940s-50s, to R& B artists of the 60s-70s, to the contemporary Hip-Hop artists of today. Artists such as the first Muslim jazz musician Sahib Shihab in 1947, jazz greats like Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, Yusuf Lateef, Pharoah Sanders, and Najee will we be featured. Modern day R & B artists such as Joe Tex, Jermaine Jackson, and Kashif and Hip-Hop artists like Akon, Native Deen, Lupe Fiasco, and Freeway will also be discussed. The opening reception will be held 2-5pm.
For more information visit their website and Facebook page at America’s Islamic Heritage Museum or call 202.610.0586
By Keyonna Jones