Ramadan Mubarak Sahelis! Last week marked the beginning of the Islamic month of Ramadan—for 30 days, Muslims all over the world will fast daily from dawn to sunset. Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, two young Muslim professionals based in NYC, are taking their observance of the month-long fast on the road. Titled 30 States in 30 Days, these guys are incorporating a cross-country road-trip into their observance of Ramadan. CitySaheli recently sat down with Aman Ali to learn about the origins of the project as well as get the scoop on this year’s trip.
Last year, when two young Muslims in New York City began having iftar, the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during Ramadan, at a different mosque each night, they chronicled their meals and adventures on a blog, titled 30 Mosques in 30 Days. Ask Aman Ali, and he’ll tell you the entire project grew out of one moment of spontaneity. “We had just finished having iftar on the first night, and I turned to him [Bassam] and said, ‘What if we had iftar at a different mosque every night?’” Ali says the idea was “completely random” and “really came out of nowhere,” and at its heart, was a natural act of spontaneity for him. When he informed friends about it, “they weren’t surprised. They looked at me and said, ‘You would.’”
The idea was simple—take advantage of the fact that nearly every mosque in New York City provides iftar each night for their community, have iftar at a different mosque each night of Ramadan, and then blog about it. Ali explains that he is the “ultimate foodie” and loves to “meet new people and learn what they’re all about,” making this project not a religious reflection on the month of Ramadan, but a chronicle of the people he meets and the food he eats.
Ali did not expect the project to gain as much attention as it did. “We weren’t even planning to have a website—the only reason we made one was because everyone kept asking for it. People kept telling me that I had to keep track of everywhere we went, and kept asking for us to write up our stories.” That website ended up attracting visitors not just from the New York area, but from all over the world. “We would track our visitors, and all of a sudden—from London, from South Africa, from Australia—people from all over the world were reading our blog, and that was just so crazy to me.”
This year, they’re making their adventure a national one. With planned stops in 30 cities across the country, the duo will be having iftar each night in a different state. The support from the community once again stunned Ali—when plans for a foundation to fund their trip fell through, they appealed to their readership. The donations came in quickly, and in 2 days, they raised over $3000. It is this loyalty and support that continues to motivate and humble Ali. “We do this because people want us to. They want us to tell these stories. Really, we do this for them. And it surprises me every time, the support we get from the community.”
With a route that outlines the entire country (see a map here), Aman is looking forward to seeing the diversity he encountered in NYC last year on a national scale. “I think we [the Muslim community] isolate ourselves a lot…[with this project] Bassam and I are trying to get out there. We meet all of these people, and just learn so much about the community.” Finding surprising sources of commonality in such a diverse community has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this project for Ali. He recalls an iftar last year at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center in Staten Island where the majority of the people in attendance spoke little to no English. “All of a sudden I said something about the video game, ‘Call of Duty 4’ and all of these kids just lit up—before you know it, we’re sitting there and talking smack to each other. It was so great.”
Aman is aware of the challenges he and Bassam will likely face during their trip. “We’re going to be tired. Things will go wrong.” But the support they have received from the community and the excitement he feels about having new adventures to chronicle outweigh any technical difficulties they may face for Ali. “I’m a storyteller,” he explains, “and I can’t wait to get out there and tell these stories.”
Follow Aman and Bassam’s adventure! Go to http://30mosques.com for updates from their trip, as well as an archive of last year’s blog.
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