In a moment of prayer Monday morning, thousands of Muslims bowed together to celebrate the end of Ramadan, filling a ballroom of the Tucson Convention Center with the colors of traditional dress.
As many as 3,000 Muslims celebrated the first day of Eid al-Fitr at the convention center, 260 S. Church Ave., said Kamel Didan, the 49-year-old vice chairman of the board of trustees at the Islamic Center of Tucson, the event organizer.
The three-day-long Eid al-Fitr holiday is a time to celebrate the breaking of the fast and the completion of Ramadan, a month devoted to worship and repentance during which observing Muslims abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset every day.
Muslims in Indonesia, across the Middle East, parts of Africa, Europe and the U.S. marked Eid on Monday. Millions in Morocco, India and most of Pakistan will likely celebrate Eid today. Muslims use a lunar calendar and a moon-sighting methodology that can lead to the month of fasting ending on different days, according to The Associated Press.
“We see family and friends, and the kids have a blast,” said Alla Frefer, 32, a management information systems graduate student at the University of Arizona. “They get new clothes, and we take time away from life for what matters.”
Frefer’s daughter, 8-year-old Maarya Frefer, tried fasting, but not for long. “It went a little bit well,” she said, wearing her new, black striped dress and a red flower in her hair. “It’s hard not eating or drinking.”
Tarek Abdelwahab, a religious scholar visiting from the Egyptian Al-Azhar University for the past month, led the Tucson community in prayer and spoke in Arabic on the conclusion of Ramadan. In Tucson, unlike in many other countries, Muslims of all nationalities celebrate together, Abdelwahab said later.
“We get together to pray, old and young and different cultures, and it shows that we are equal under God,” said Sarah Hemzawi, a 20-year-old UA student.
With generosity as a significant focus of Ramadan, a $10 giving, or zakat, from each worshipper has raised $20,000 to $30,000 for charity in past years, Didan said.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild spoke briefly about the gathering’s reflection of peace, which the community proved in a clamor of hugs, selfies, romping children and greetings of blessing — “Eid Mubarak.” Then came the buckets of candy. Families and friends spend the day dining together, cooking traditionally or eating at restaurants.
The diverse backgrounds “show how Islam is touching everyone’s life and all corners of the world,” said Burhan Hamdan, 50, the Islamic Center of Tucson volunteer who translated Abdelwahab’s message. “Tucson gets to see what Islam is and who Muslims are.”