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Readers' wishes for Ramadan: Cease-fire in Gaza, peace on Earth and more empathy

NPR producer Hafsa Fathima with family and friends celebrating Eid Al-Fitr.
Hafsa Fathima
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NPR
NPR producer Hafsa Fathima with family and friends celebrating Eid Al-Fitr.

Updated March 10, 2024 at 2:31 PM ET

Ramadan, the holiest month on the Islamic calendar, will begin on Monday, according to moon sightings in various countries. During this time, Muslims celebrate the month in which God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad. Those who observe Ramadan will fast from sun-up to sundown. At the end of the month, they celebrate a major holiday called Eid al-Fitr, or the "Festival of the Breaking of the Fast."

"The power of this month really is in the fact that every Muslim in the world is fasting and praying together in this holy month," Saman Naquvi of Brooklyn, N.Y., said. "It drives home the fact that our community isn't just local but global."

This year, NPR asked readers about their Ramadan prayers. More than 600 people responded. These were some of the major themes NPR readers are praying for and reflecting on.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Peace in Gaza and the rest of the world

Readers overwhelmingly wished for a cease-fire in Gaza. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to Gaza's health ministry.

"We all have personal prayers for ourselves and our loved ones," Huma Husain of Silver Spring, Md., said. "This year however they are all overshadowed by one thing: cease-fire and a peaceful resolution in Gaza."

Hundreds of readers included prayers for peace in other areas of the world as well. Many called for the release of all hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7.

"I'm praying for the end of suffering for all those from [Palestinian territories] to Sudan to Congo," Nasra Nimaha of Hempstead, N.Y., said.

Afshan Hamid, 57, wished for "peace and justice for [Palestinian territories], Kashmir, Pakistan, Yemen, Rohingya Muslims and all people who are oppressed, [including] Ukrainian people [and] immigrants at our borders."

"I wish that Muslims, Jews, and Christians in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza could live together in peace," Randall Rick of Lone Tree, Colo., said. "Outside the Middle East, I wish for peace in any land where there is conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims. Lastly, I wish for peace between any groups that are in conflict with each other."

Palestinians perform the last Tarawih prayer during the holy month of Ramadan at the Omari Mosque in old Gaza on April 30, 2022 in Gaza City, Gaza.
Fatima Shbair / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Palestinians perform the last Tarawih prayer during the holy month of Ramadan at the Omari Mosque in old Gaza on April 30, 2022 in Gaza City, Gaza.

Family

The health and happiness of family members stood out among readers' personal prayers. This year is the first Ramadan since Wajiha Akhtar's mom died. "I'll be praying that she's no longer in pain," the 38-year-old said.

Afifa Yusufi's mother has COPD and pneumonia. "I'm praying [for her] ... to be with us a little longer," she said. "I'm praying for all my family and friends and loved ones to be healthy and safe, and for people to care for their mental health."

Zuhaira Razzack of Houston, Texas, wants her children to "achieve success, happiness, love, security, and fulfillment in their lives and to maintain bonds of family, friendship and community." Sana Shaikh of Marlboro, N.J., wants her children to "grow up as kind, giving and helpful human beings to their communities and world."

The environment

There was no shortage of prayers for the health of the Earth, either.

"I'm praying for a Ramadan of collective liberation and restoration of ecological balance on our bleeding mother Earth," Nazish Qureshi of Washington, D.C., said.

Afhsan Hamid hopes humanity will be provided the "intelligence and capacity to solve and lead climate change and environmental issues." And Hamza Ettarbaoui of Morocco said, "I'm praying for a world [where] I can breathe clean air."

Gratitude

Many readers said they were reflecting on everything they have to be grateful for, especially while so much of the world is suffering.

"In the tranquil moments of Ramadan, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the blessings bestowed upon us," Wajeha Barakat of Raleigh, N.C., said. "We seek peace not only within ourselves but also for our brothers and sisters around the world, hoping that the divine light of this sacred month will bring an end to conflicts and suffering."

"This Ramadan, I'm grateful for my life, my loved ones, my community, and my country," Nas Kazi of Yorba Linda, Calif., said. "I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and the ability to overcome any obstacles that may be in my future. I am also aware that many people around the world do not enjoy the same opportunities and their challenges are dire compared to what I endure."

"We are choosing to go without food and water so that we can acknowledge with gratitude that it is a choice we have the privilege to make," Saman Naquvi said. "Others ... are not given the luxury of that choice. And so we will pray that they have food to break their fasts with, and shelter from the bombs to pray under and that they and their families will live long enough to celebrate Eid together."

"This is a bittersweet Ramadan as we get to open our fasts with an abundance of food while praying for babies and toddlers that are being starved to death," Nazia Sheriff, 43, said. "Our hearts are so heavy as a community and carry a collective despair, the extent of which we can't even fully express."

"It feels wrong to be comfortable and enjoying life with my family while there are people out there who are starving and getting bombed at the same time," Natasha Kha of Newton, Mass., said. "While fasting, I will be thinking about what the kids in Gaza go through while they are hungry. Yet it won't be the same because I will get to break my fast while they cannot."

Free and fair elections and kind global leaders

Many readers in America extended prayers to U.S. leaders and politicians as the nation gears up for a presidential election. Saima Ahmad of Suwanee, Ga., hopes for "an outcome of the election that is best for the country." Minha Kauser of Vienna, Va., hopes the next president "cares about building peace." Sophia Jafri of East Windsor, N.J., hopes for "morally upright politicians who stand for all rights."

Kimberly Alostaz is from Kuwait and now lives in Ohio. "I am praying for morally strong, intelligent, knowledgeable, respectable, empathetic, humble and unbiased leaders around the world who are capable of truly making decisions that benefit their people and all people around the world," she said.

More empathy and understanding

As readers reflected on the many conflicts taking place around the world, they overwhelmingly called for more empathy, understanding and equality in humanity.

"I pray that every human being is given the same worth and value around the world; not based on the color of their skin, the God they follow or the city they live in," Zuleqa Husain of Silver Spring, Md., said.

"I pray for healing. I pray for justice. I pray for mercy. I pray for patience. I pray for steadfastness. I pray for the ability of humanity to move beyond base impulses to serve and deeply care for one another, this planet, and all that inhabit it," 38-year-old Nadia Massoud said.

"As a Palestinian, I'm praying that humanity and compassion prevail and that people recognize that killing, destruction and wars never solve any conflicts. Instead, they create more destruction," Hind Jarrah of McKinney, Texas, said.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Suzanne Nuyen