Evanston news delivered free to your inbox! 

Ray, a young black man, went from a small southern town to Chicago to attend college.  He was a good student, friendly and inquisitive. Other students liked him and included him in their lives, on and off-campus.

When a classmate invited Ray to go with him to a meeting of Black Muslims, Ray readily agreed. He was curious. He knew that Muslims were of the Islamic faith, but he did not know much more. He decided to do a bit of research so that he would not be completely ignorant of Islam when he attended the meeting. His classmate suggested that Ray wear a suit and tie, as he would do also.

The Muslims welcomed Ray and made him feel really comfortable with them. They gave him some literature to take with him and read later. Ray attended other meetings with his friend and decided to become a Muslim.

When the school year ended, Ray returned home. Ramadan (the ninth month in the Islamic calendar; a holy time for prayers, reading and reciting of the Quran and fasting from dawn until sunset) was to begin that evening. Ray had not given much thought to how his parents would react to his new religion. His parents were Christians. Fortunately, he arrived home before sunset. His mom had fixed his favorite foods and delighted in having her baby back home and enjoying her cooking. 

Ray used fatigue as his reason for not eating anything else after sunset, but he knew he would have to explain why he did not want to eat breakfast after dawn. He would have to tell his parents about his conversion to Islam.

When he came downstairs in the morning, his parents were already seated at the table. After greeting each other, Ray’s mother wanted to know what he wanted for breakfast. Falteringly, Ray told her that he could not eat then and told his parents about his conversion to Islam and Ramadan. 

His mother began to cry, sobbing about how much she had feared him going away to that “sin-filled city,” knowing that he would be led astray. Ray quivered inside and looked at his father.  His father asked, “Will this religion still teach you to treat people right?”

“Yes, Dad,” Ray answered.  “Then your mom and I will just have to accept your choice,”

Ray’s dad said, “We don’t intend to convert, but you can make us wiser by learning about another religion.” 

Ray’s mother stopped crying, wiped her eyes with a dishtowel and looked back and forth at Ray and her husband. She put her arms out for Ray to come get a hug. As she patted Ray’s back she said, “You’re still my baby and always will be.” 

Note: Ramadan begins at sunset on June 6. According to Google, “The Islamic calendar is lunar, and the days begin at sunset. Regional customs or moon sightings may cause a variation of the date for Islamic holidays.”

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...