Muslims around the world are in the midst of celebrating Ramadan, a month long Islamic holiday. One Muslim family in Cache Valley is opening their home and inviting their friends of all beliefs to join the celebrations.
“You’re at my house at 2:30 a.m. because it’s a special month for us,” said Gonca Soyer, who lives in Logan with her husband Mehmet and their two children. “It is called Ramadan. It is one of the months in the Islamic calendar that is special because our holy book, Quran, was started to reveal in this month, back in Prophet Muhammad's time. Even though the revelation of Quran took many many years, it was completed during Ramadan as well.”
Originally from Turkey, the family is active in their Islamic faith. One way they preserve their culture is by listening to traditional music. Their friend Wade Evans plays for them during one of their Ramadan meals.
“During Ramadan, we fast from sunrise to sunset,” Gonca said. “We don’t drink anything, not even water. We don’t eat. It’s a month that we, as Muslim people, it teaches us how to be patient and understanding because there are many, many millions of people who are going through this same thing and not having a meal at the end of the day.”
During Ramadan, the daily fast begins and ends with a meal. The morning meal is call Suhoor, and the evening one Iftar. Suhoor concludes and the fast begins at 4:30 a.m. with the morning call to prayer. The fast is broken with Iftar, when the sun has set.
“During both of the meals we have this tradition of starting the meal by saying bismillah, which is basically ‘in the name of God,’” Gonca said, “So we start eating in the name of God, we start drinking our water in the name of God. We usually say this with like everything. It becomes kind of a habit. You’re opening the door so you say, ‘bismillah.’ You know God, please let me do good things, let me come across with good people during this time.”
Before moving to Utah last July, Mehment and Gonca lived in Texas, and prior to that Mississippi.
In both of these places they had strong communities of friends who would share Ramadan meals with them. Because they were so new to Logan, they worried few people would join them in celebrating. So they used Facebook as a way to open their door to people in the community and were pleasantly surprised by the results.
Mehmet said these invitations are an important part of the holy month.
“In the Islamic religion, to invite your friends for house for Iftar or Sahar is good deeds. So that’s why we would also like to invite our friends,” Mehmet said.
Marissa Vigneault is an assistant professor of art history at Utah State University and a friend of the Soyers. She and her husband, along with their six-year-old daughter joined the family for an Iftar dinner.
“I have never been invited an Iftar celebration before, and so I was very excited about that,” Vigneaut said. “One of the things that I do love about moving here and being in this valley and having the university here is that we have so many different people that come from so many different places. And having that opportunity to celebrate different cultures, different backgrounds, different religions, I’m open and happy to experience all of that.”
“Most comers for Iftar, they haven’t experienced Ramadan at all, which is really great for us as well,” Mehmet said. “If they have questions they are asking us a question, and that way they were exposed by those different religion or different custom or different culture. I think that we contribute diversity in Logan society in this way.”
“It gives us an opportunity to express ourselves and it gives the people who are coming in our house an opportunity to experience how a Muslim family lives during a special time,” Gonca said.
Ramadan lasts 30 days, and the Soyers said nearly all the nights on their calendar are filled with guests. They hope their children will learn that Ramadan is a time to celebrate and share with friends, and that their friends will return to their table once more.