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During Ramadan, Muslims opt for pre-dawn comfort food


For Zoya Ahmed, nothing says Ramadan like pancakes before dawn.


That's because every year during the Muslim holy month, she gets together for a pre-dawn breakfast, known as suhoor, with a group from her mosque in Fredericksburg, Va.

ZOYA AHMED: We always go to IHOP once, sometimes twice a Ramadan. And it's just a tradition now. And we've been doing it for, honestly, as long as I can remember.

MARTIN: The same goes for Hira Qureshi. She wrote about it for the Cherry Hill Courier-Post in New Jersey.

HIRA QURESHI: Being Muslim American, I think it plays into that identity. I want to have American breakfast for this holiday that I celebrate, and it kind of combines those two identities for me.

MARTÍNEZ: Zoya Ahmed says she recently went to an IHOP in Pakistan, and everything on the menu was halal, or permissible in the Islamic faith.

AHMED: It was like a whole new world of, like, oh, my God, I can order whatever I want. I can order chicken. I can order steak. Oh, I can get any of this.

MARTIN: Mohammad Ashraf started offering a halal menu at his IHOP franchise in Southern California back in 2009.

MOHAMMAD ASHRAF: We couldn't accommodate people on every Friday and Saturday night. People were sitting in the parking lot by the sidewalk and eating halal food, and it went viral.

MARTIN: So he added a weekend buffet and outdoor seating.

ASHRAF: They're overwhelmed because they are going to a mainstream American restaurant and having halal food.

MARTÍNEZ: Ashraf says at a time when Muslims are fasting from dawn to dusk, the chance to share a meal before sunup with lots of food choices can be especially meaningful. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.