Ramadan comes to campus

Students prepare to fast, reminisce on home celebrations

By Fizza Hassan, Staff Writer

As April 2 approaches, Muslims around the world are preparing to welcome Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Lunar Islamic calendar and is the most sacred time in Islamic culture. For 30 days, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, participate in prayer and reflect with their community.  

Muslim students at the University will soon take part in the month’s rituals, and they are aiming to carefully manage their semester workload with Ramadan while also maintaining a healthy work/study balance.

Ahnaf Ishmam, junior in LAS, is one student who is preparing to balance his dense workload during Ramadan. 

“(My) workload is a lot because finals are coming up,” Ishmam said. “We have in-person classes and balancing is something I need to be aware of. I happen to volunteer at a local elementary school every weekend, so it will be intense for sure.”

A typical fasting day averages between 14 and 15 hours. To maintain strong energy levels, students like Lara Sweid, junior in AHS, resort to a healthier diet plan. 

“I’m anticipating it to be harder than last year considering I was at home before,” Sweid said. “So to prepare for that, I’m trying to plan ahead and just make sure I have good meal plans set up for myself to get the required nutrition that will help me stay energized for the rest of my day.”

For the Muslim Students Association, hosting regular Iftars (breaking of fast) is something that brings the community together. Suaad Rashid, sophomore in LAS, is the unity head of shura within MSA — “shura” is the Arabic word for consultation.  Rashid said she enjoys Iftars not only because she gets to break the fast, but because it is an opportunity to meet other Muslims on campus.

“Everyone has varying schedules, but it’s nice to sit down and break fast with so many other Muslims on campus,” Rashid said. “It can get hard when it’s someone’s first Ramadan away from home, so these Iftars allow us to gain a sense of community and get to know one another.”

Siti Fathimah, an international grad student from Indonesia studying Economics, said she misses the excitement brought to her native hometown and community. 

“Back in Indonesia, about 90% (of the) population is Muslim and usually, we have Adaan (call for prayer), and we freely go to places because mosques are everywhere,” Fathimah said. “The college life between Indonesia and here is a lot different. I miss the euphoria of Ramadan which is huge in Indonesia.” 

Ishmam also recalled Ramadan during the early years of his life in Bangladesh. Ishmam also mentioned how COVID-19 dampened the excitement of the month.

“I was born and raised in Dhaka before I moved to New York,” Ishmam said. “It’s not a big thing here, but in Bangladesh, it’s colorful. It was a different experience here during COVID-19 as I was alone for the most time. I didn’t get to experience those moments with COVID-19, but I really enjoyed praying and meeting other people.” 

Some Muslim students think the University management needs to be mindful of Ramadan’s start and end dates. They also said the University needs to provide further dining flexibility for students looking to break their fast. The University can do that by providing simple snacks or packs of water, students say.

Sweid said Muslim students also ask for stronger voices of awareness about Ramadan in general. 

“I think it’s important to bring light to the meaning behind it, because people just think automatically, ‘Oh, you’re not drinking water?’” Sweid said. “There’s a big whole spiritual meaning behind it, and I think it’s important to talk about that.”

Ramadan is not just an act of refraining from food and water. For many, it serves as an opportunity to reconnect spiritually and for others, it is a journey of rejuvenation.

Students also shared their takeaways from fasting and goals they intend to accomplish during Ramadan.

“One thing Ramadan taught me quite significantly is being able to stay focused and knowing your goals and knowing how your actions reflect your intentions,” Ishmam said. “I was able to analyze and see how they’re linked with each other. When I fast, I appreciate the smaller things in life. I reflect more.” 

 Sweid defined what Ramadan means to her. 

“The month of Ramadan is a month to connect with our religion, improve ourselves, be humble and forgiving,” Sweid said. “I get rid of any distractions for the month of Ramadan like social media and focus on my renewed attention and my goals.”

Sweid said Ramadan makes her feel grateful for what she has and reflects on her own strength.

“The biggest benefit from this experience is just how humble and thankful you feel on really fasting almost the entire day,” Sweid said. “It can be difficult and challenging, especially during school. Looking back and seeing how you were able to stay motivated makes the journey better when you look back.”

 

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