Posted by Neveen Hammad on July 08, 2015 in Blog

Fanous_Ramadan.jpgAn Imam’s call to prayer overcomes the evening air as hundreds of local Muslims rush to taraweeh prayer. It is the holy month of Ramadan, a time of heightened spiritual connections and religious reflection for Muslims throughout the world. Muslims celebrate this month-long holiday by fasting from food and water every day in the hours between sunrise and sunset. This is a time when Muslims do all they can to better themselves and empower their communities.

From lectures advising Muslims to be humble, modest, charitable, and hospitable, to discussions on the difference between morality and ethics, a wide array of topics are discussed during Ramadan-specific, evening prayers, or taraweeh. These prayers are an important component of Ramadan because they contribute to Muslims' religious enlightenment. Sometimes, however, this holy month is contaminated with persecution and hardships. Many Palestinian Muslims are limited with, or ultimately denied, entry into Jerusalem for prayer, which is considered Islam’s third holiest site worldwide. Similarly, officials in China banned Muslims from fasting and engaging in other religious rituals.

Meanwhile, Google honored the month of Ramadan when they launched a feature called My Ramadan Companion. The website is filled with tools for Muslims to use during and after their daily fast. The home page warmly welcomes site visitors with a friendly assurance, “We’re here to help you take care of the little things, so you can focus on the big things.” My Ramadan Companion includes three sections: food, entertainment, and planning. The food section includes “Ramadan Recipes” that lists YouTube videos for recipes and cooking tutorials. Under entertainment, users will find links to relevant television shows and cartoons for children. The planning section features Google calendars, apps to assist practicing Muslims, and a schedule highlighting sunrise and sunset times.

Ramadan is perhaps the most important month for many Muslims. From taraweeh prayers and Quran recitation, to philanthropy and the humbling experience of fasting, Ramadan is a holiday that is celebrated by over a billion people throughout the world. Due to cultural differences and volatile political environments, some Muslims are restricted from openly celebrating during this holy month. Google’s gesture with the launch of My Ramadan Companion is not only helpful for Muslims, but it also brings awareness to non-Muslims. This is an inclusive move and may lead to more openness for Islam and the holy month of Ramadan.

Neveen Hammad is an intern with the Arab American Institute