Students, faculty celebrate Ramadan, a holy celebration of faith for Muslims
March 22nd marked the beginning of the Ramadan holiday season, the holiest month of celebration for Muslims, observed by fasting from sunrise to sunset, prayer, reflection and community involvement.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered the birth date of the Quran, and the time when God revealed it from the heavens into Earth, according to experts. It is a holy celebration and a time Muslims dedicate to faith, family and God.
“It’s a time of reflection, sacrifice and giving,” program director and associate professor of Middle Eastern studies Emran El-Badawi said. “ It is commemorated in the Quran and by Muslims, by fasting the entire month from dawn until dusk, and it’s a dry fast so you fast from all food, drinks, sexual relations and other things as well like emotions and anger.”
The fasts can last anywhere from 10-15 hours, depending on the time of year and geographical location, according to El-Badawi.
Although it can be difficult, Muslims start fasting at a young age and get used to it relatively quickly, according to human development and communications sciences and disorders senior Lina Abuarafah.
“Well, I got used to it, but sometimes at the end of the day, you do get tired,” Abuarafah said. “I started fasting early on in age. At seven years old I was able to fast the whole day. As I got older, now I have more energy. And it’s just like, my day keeps going as any other day.”
Fasting is asked of all Muslims who practice their faith over a certain age, but there are some exceptions.
“The rules according to the dictates of the scriptures and tradition, all Muslims who are adults, so after puberty are accountable before God, so they have to pray and fast,” El-Badawi said. “Unless you’re a child, if you’re ill, pregnant, have some sort of physical ailments or mental disability, then you’re exempted from fasting.”
He added that if you cannot fast for some reason, there are numerous other ways to show your faith in God, like giving to the poor.
The first meal, which is taken early in the morning, or during what El-Badawi described as the “dead of night.” The second meal, which is referred to as “Iftar” and is after the sun has set.
At the end of each fast, comes large family feasts. These feasts are moments for family members to show off their cultural cuisines and ironically the most exuberant part of the holiday, according to El-Badawi.
“I would say the most exciting and most colorful thing about Ramadan is the food,” El-Badawi said. “It’s really a celebration of culture and of food, and people become very happy after the fast.”
The diverse array of cultures that make up the Muslim diaspora brings a variety of unique dishes to the table during a Ramadan Iftar celebration. Cuisines like pastries and dates are popular. Milk, yogurt, sambusas, halal version of hotdogs or hamburgers and more are also enjoyed.
On Friday, April 21, or at the next crescent moon Ramadan concludes. Then a large three-day celebration called “Eid al-Fitr” is held for all the fasting, giving and sacrifices made. Gifts are exchanged between family members as well, according to El-Badawi.
“For me, it’s a month of getting closer to God,” Abuarafah said.