Ramadan is a sacred month full of blessings, abstinence, community, charity, reflection, family, and prayers.
Photo by Vladimir Mokry on Unsplash
It is obligatory for all Muslims to fast, which means not eating or drinking from dawn to sunset. Some individuals are excluded due to illness or travel. It's a time for spiritual growth and introspection, charitable giving, and family reunions. It is also a period of spiritual purification. The deeper purpose of fasting is to strive for God-consciousness (taqwa), in order to endeavor to live according to Islamic standards at all times. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan, starts on a different day every year because it is dependent on the lunar cycle. From March 23 through April 22, 2023, is the holy month of Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr, a significant celebration, marks the end of the holy month. Ramadan brings together many Muslims with their families and the wider Islamic community.
Muslims in Russia eagerly and joyfully welcomed the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan causes a transformation in the city. For the first Taraweeh prayer of this Ramadan, Muslims from all around Russia, including the capital city of Moscow, gathered to the mosques. In honor of the beginning of Ramadan, President Vladimir Putin sent out warm greetings to Russia's Muslim minority. This is a significant gesture because it reflects Putin's commitment to establishing a solid connection with Russia's Muslim community. This is notable because it indicates the Russian government's dedication to promoting religious understanding and tolerance. Putin uses his message to express his admiration for the Muslim population and their way of life. It also serves to promote harmony and understanding among Russia's various religious communities. 
Ramadan away from home
As a Pakistani student pursuing a Master's degree at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow, this is my first Ramadan away from home. I understand the loneliness of celebrating Ramadan without the comforts of family as an international student studying away from home. Student life without family is difficult. My way of life changed as a result of being overseas, but I never fully anticipated Ramadan to be at the core of those changes. At our house, Ramadan begins a week early when mom announces that we have to get all the groceries for Ramadan, and over the course of several days leading up to the first roza, the kitchen steadily fills up with all the components for Ramadan food. At home, Ramadan entails the scent of mom's parathas filling the house at three in the morning for Sehri, hearing the Masjid's loud siren signal the conclusion of Sehri and the beginning of Fajr, having a thousand naps during the day, and eventually getting up to pray when you see mom praying. It involves cooking all the fried Iftar food with my mother while my father makes fruit chaat and other healthy drinks to encourage us to drink enough water; saying Isha as my mother says Taraweeh and vowing to start saying it myself the next day, and staying up all night with my sister eating Iftar leftovers until we repeat the process for the next 29 or 30 days. During this time, everyone always eats together, gets ready together, and prays. I do, however, miss preparing meals like we used to in Pakistan. We used to exchange iftar with all of our neighbors. Ramadan in a non-muslim nation and away from family hardly ever involves any of these things. But I'm determined to stay in Moscow for my first Ramadan.
Ramadan in Moscow
Many Muslim students who are studying away from home for the first time encounter the same unforeseen difficulties, such as having to get up on their own for suhoor without a parent dragging them out of bed or enduring a taxing day on campus only to return home without any food to break their fast with. Coming over here definitely altered my Ramadan situation. My sister doesn't constantly warn me not to sleep right before breaking my fast, nor is my mother here to pamper me with various dishes. You don't get to eat Son Papdi, Kanafeh, Samosas, Chana Chat, Pakoras, or Fatayer. It's not that you cannot make them; it's simply that you're alone and don't feel like cooking different kinds of meals after a long, exhausting day. Having said that, I believe the biggest adjustment is explaining to people outside why I go without eating all day. In a new city, I was concerned about how I would handle fasting. But I soon understood that Ramadan in Moscow is a special and exceptional experience.
The first few days were difficult because I had to fast for about 14 hours per day while also attending classes, completing assignments, and preparing for them; you can't really concentrate when you're hungry, and you're exhausted after breaking your fast at 7:30 p.m. I explain how I manage I started cooking as soon as I got home from a lecture. I would break my fast with a tiny serving, offer Maghrib prayers, and then finish the meal. Due to the short time between iftar and sehri, leftovers were served for both dinner and sehri. Even though it is challenging to get adequate sleep, since Isha begins at midnight and Fajr comes at around three in the morning, it is still manageable.
Moscow Cathedral Mosque
I used to solely visit mosques to pray taraweeh back home, but in Moscow I had more of a reason to go. After attending university, I frequently took the train to the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, which is the closest and biggest mosque. The mosque is set up to represent community and being with others who are like me. The metro makes it simple to go to the mosque. Simply take the brown Koltsevaya line 5 and get off at the Prospekt Mira stop. From there, proceed to the stadium on foot. It requires a 15–20 minute walk. Throughout Ramadan, thousands of Muslims participate in group prayers. I had the opportunity to interact with people from all around the world during Ramadan. I became more aware of their various traditions and practices, and I was astounded by the beauty of diversity. It is lovely to see people of different ethnicities praying together from across the world.
1. The structure of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque: I was astounded by the mosque's elegant interiors when I toured it, especially by the startling contrast of pristine white marble with emerald, green, blue, and golden designs, as well as the expert stone and wood carving. In order to represent the solidarity between the Russian and Tatar peoples, the Moscow Cathedral Mosque was constructed. The Spassky Tower in Moscow and the leaning tower in the Kazan Kremlin are comparable to the two tallest minarets. A golden dome on top of the mosque blends beautifully into the Orthodox Moscow skyline. They have effective security measures. Men and women enter through different entrances. You must take off your shoes. Women are required to put on a robe with a hood that is offered for free. In a cloakroom, there is space for hanging your coats and shoes. The mosque also has a number of halal cafés.
2. Moscow Cathedral Mosque Museum: The third level of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque also occupies the free-to-enter Museum of Islam. The earliest manuscripts of the Koran are on display here. You can find instances of Arabic calligraphy that date back to the 8th century, when Kufic script first appeared. The text appears to have been carved in stone or inlaid with mosaics. In addition to the manuscripts, the museum contains an Indian box from the 19th century used to store the Koran, a mother-of-pearl box modeled like the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, a piece of the Kaaba cover, and replicas of old manuscripts from Tashkent and Istanbul. The "Silver Koran" and Mohammed's donated hair from the Chechen Republic are also on display in the museum.
3. Moscow Cathedral Mosque Iftar Meal: All Muslims who visit the mosque are given a free iftar meal during Ramadan only. After a long day of fasting, the iftar meal is a delicious and hearty meal that is sure to satisfy you. A wonderful way to learn about the Muslim community in Moscow is to attend the Iftar at the mosque inside the Moscow Cathedral. It is a great way to break your Ramadan fast and has a festive and welcoming atmosphere.
Although observing Ramadan in Moscow is difficult, it is also rewarding. I genuinely value the entire social experience. Now I am never alone. I gained a lot of knowledge about who I am and my faith, and I also made some lifelong friends. I'm appreciative of the chance to celebrate Ramadan in Moscow, and I'll treasure my memories of it forever.