While talking about Ramadan in her Bangor home, Marwa Hassanein opens a decorative box holding the Quran, Islam's holy book. Ramadan, the holiest time of year for Muslims, is a period of reflection, spiritual discipline and reading the Quran. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A Bangor woman will hold an open house later this month to share how her family celebrates Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for the followers of Islam.

Marwa Hassanein, the first Muslim elected to office in Bangor, will invite people into her home on March 31. Details will be announced on her Facebook page. Elected to the School Committee in 2019, Hassanein has served as chairperson since November 2021.

While the Islamic Center of Maine, the Orono mosque Hassanein and her family attend, has received anit-Muslim threats in the past, she said that she is not concerned about opening her home to people who want to learn more about her religion.

Marwa Hassanein has decorated her home for Ramadan, the holiest time of year for Muslims. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

“I want to demystify our religion and reclaim the narrative,” she said.

During Ramadan, healthy adult Muslims are to abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset. The elderly, children who have not yet reached puberty, pregnant and nursing mothers and those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, are exempt from fasting.

The month is to be devoted to reflection and spiritual discipline, as well as the reading of the Quran, which was revealed to the prophet Muhammad by Allah during the final days of Ramadan, according to Islam.

Marwa Hassanein discusses the importance of Ramadan as Muslims worldwide enter a four-week period of worship. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

“Ramadan gives a heightened sense of God consciousness, self-control, improvements of health by reducing and/or eliminating impurities from the body, and to also sympathize with the poor and less fortunate who are sick and hungry,” she said Wednesday. “It is a time of introspection, repentance and deep spirituality. It’s a crucial time to count my blessings over the year and feel empathy for those less fortunate.”

This year, Ramadan began at 5:17 a.m. Thursday with the sunrise.

Hassanein rose early with her family to have breakfast and did not eat or drink again until sunset at 6:48 p.m. She planned to host a gathering of friends to break the fast on the first day of the holy month.

Ramadan will end on April 21 or 22. The dates change each year as Islam follows the lunar calendar.

Marwa Hassanein will be inviting people into her home to celebrate Ramadan together. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

The conclusion of the holiday traditionally is a large community gathering with lots of food. In 2016, more than 2,000 Maine Muslims gathered on a Portland football field to mark the Eid al-Iftar.

This year, Muslims will be able to gather to break the fast for the first time in several years due to the coronavirus pandemic that restricted large gatherings. Hassanein said that plans for the celebration have not been finalized.

Growing up in Oklahoma, her family decorated their home for Ramadan and Hassanein has continued that tradition. Her house is full of white and gold decorations including a tablecloth and a banner that says, “Ramadan Mubarak,” which translates to “Blessed Ramadan.”

She also has lanterns and candles throughout the house to symbolize the “beacon of hope Ramadan shines on the rest of the year.”

Marwa Hassanein has decorated her Bangor home in celebration of Ramadan. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Traditional foods eaten during the holiday include dates and dried apricots. Many Muslims begin their day during Ramadan with dates and milk.

There are other aspects to Ramadan, according to Hassanein.

“Ramadan is the month of forgiveness, the month of mercy, the month of attaining paradise, the month of celebration of being Muslim,” she said.