Valley Stream celebrates start of Ramadan with crescent star lighting


“As we begin this month of Ramadan,” Ahsan Syed, president of Valley Stream’s Masjid Hamza, began, “people think it’s really about food and water.

“At least I think it’s about food and water,” he continued, standing on the green of the village’s Fireman's Plaza memorial in chilly, wet weather last Friday, but surrounded by the warmth of roughly 200 fellow Muslims. “. . . But it’s a lot more.”

For 14-year-old Ibrahim Rasheed, it was about feeling the support of family. “It’s when everyone is closest together,” he said, “and you don’t feel like you can be left behind.”

For the Shakur sisters — Jenna, 17, and Jasmine, 15 — it’s about visiting with loved ones they don’t normally see throughout the year, and feeling closer to God.

For 10-year-old Saubir Yaseen, it’s about training the mind and body, and playing soccer with friends after nightly midnight prayers.

“Also the food is very good,” chimed in his sister Salma, 12.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, when, for 30 days, Muslims refrain from partaking in worldly pleasures, including food and water, during the daylight hours to commemorate the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.

“By the time Ramadan is over, you can discipline yourself in other ways of life,” said 19-year-old Yusra Ahmed. “You can stay away from sinning, stay away from cheating, stay away from lying. That’s what the purpose of fasting is, and why it’s such a holy month.”

For Ahmed, who serves as vice president of Hofstra University’s Muslim Student Organization, the month is also a period of solidarity, not only with the world’s 1.8 billion-member Islamic community, but also the one right here in Valley Stream.

“Ramadan reminds you of what we’re a part of,” she said. “We’re part of this bigger community, and we get to see our friends every night at the mosque — it’s an amazing feeling.”

Ramadan began at sundown on Sunday, but on Friday, the village held an unprecedented event in which it illuminated a crescent star, facing Sunrise Highway, at the Fireman's Plaza memorial, where similar events are held for the holidays of other major religions.

“In Valley Stream we embrace and we celebrate and we love our diversity,” said Mayor Ed Fare. “. . . I’ve had the good fortune of standing in this spot, where we have a menorah for our people of Jewish faith, a crèche and manger for those of the Christian faith, and now we’re celebrating the Muslim faith.”

As the crowd gathered, waiting for the lighting, children ran about on the grass as parents and teenagers socialized, and some of the elderly passed out sweets or sat on lawn chairs. “It’s great for Valley Stream to be doing this for the Muslim community,” said Sophia Quddes, 32. “Growing up, you’d always see the Christmas and Hannukah celebrations, and that’s great. Now our kids have something they can relate to. I think it’s great for our community to be represented.”

Additionally, Fare announced, Village Hall will be illuminated green, the traditional color of Islam, for the month in honor of the holiday. And for the second time in its history, the village is scheduled on June 8 to hold a celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan and is one of the two holiest days on the Muslim calendar. (The other is Eid al-Adha, which falls on Aug. 10 this year.)

The event will be held at the community center in Hendrickson Park, and is scheduled to run from 3 to 6 p.m.

In addition to Syed, Masjid Hamza’s resident Imam, Kashif Aziz, spoke of the importance of Ramadan in the Muslim faith, and Sheikh Ibad Wali, director and resident scholar at the Hillside Islamic Center in New Hyde Park, offered thanks to Valley Stream for recognizing its Muslim community.

“For myself and all of us here tonight, I remind ourselves that this is an opportunity for all of us to be at our best, with our neighbors — Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, whatever it may be,” Syed said. “This is who we are.”