Observing Ramadan on campus

Hussain Patel operates a tight schedule.

He wakes for morning prayer at 5:30 a.m., gets in a little more sleep before class and then goes to his internship – all while fasting.

Patel, a sophomore originally from Pakistan, finally breaks his daily fast at sundown with the consumption of a date, followed by evening prayer and then an iftar – a communal breaking of the fast.

He is one of many students on campus who observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a time for Muslims to purify their souls through prayer and self-sacrifice.

“The Islamic month of Ramadan is a time of fasting, reflection, family, forgiveness and charity,” Patel said.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, represents the time during which the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

Celebrating Ramadan on a college campus can be quite different from what Muslim students would normally do at home.

“In Pakistan everyone is fasting; no one is eating, even restaurants are closed. The community comes together during this time because they can share and bond in this experience,” said Pakistani native and sophomore Maryam Dadabhoy.

The family gatherings and celebrations that usually take place throughout the month of Ramadan are also missing.

“I talk with my family every day, but during Ramadan it is harder, because Ramadan emphasizes family,” Patel said. “On top of that, my mother always tells me what dishes she is cooking – really makes me wish I was back home being able to eat my favorite dishes.”

To cope with separation, international Muslim students like Patel and Dadabhoy attend iftar dinners at Miriam’s Kitchen, which were held every Monday through Thursday during Ramadan by GW’s Muslim Student Association.

“They aren’t our family’s cooking,” Patel said. “But they allow us to come together to pray and eat and it provides us with a sense of family and community,” added Dadabhoy.

Another challenge of Ramadan is the fasting: Muslims are not allowed to consume food or liquids between dawn and sunset. Patel and Dadabhoy both agree that fasting promotes fatigue, but it is something they’ve experienced their entire lives.

They said being around non-fasters does not tempt them, but rather, it helps them reflect on those who are less fortunate and cannot provide meals for themselves or their families.

For junior Zahir Baig, it is not so much the hunger but the thirst that presents a challenge. Especially during the summer months, he finds the inability to consume liquids the most difficult.

But Baig insists that fasting helps him study better because he does not have to worry about when and what he is going to eat next. While fasting, there are no pointless trips to the fridge or time-wasting cabinet searches for snacks.

To break the fast, Dadabhoy starts with the ritual of eating a date followed by prayer and then an iftar – her only meal of the day.

Eid al-Fitr, normally referred to as Eid, is the three-day celebration that ends the month of Ramadan. Commonly, it is a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate the end of the holy month. This year, the end of Ramadan fell on Sept. 9.

MSA will host an Eid banquet Sept. 17 in the Marvin Center. Ramadan will not occur during the school year again for about 15 years.

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