Muslim community celebrates Ramadan on campus – The Campus

Ramadan is a time of year when Muslims around the world participate in a month-long fast from sunrise to sunset from food and water. The last 10 days of this month have religious significance, as they observe when the Islamic scriptures were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. In order, the pillars are: witnessing that there is no God but God himself and that the Prophet Muhammad was his last messenger, performing the five daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, giving traditionally 2.5% of your money to Islamic State or – more modern – giving money to the poor and a one-time pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for those who can.

Although maintaining these five pillars and specifically fasting for a month is not an easy task, the practice is very intentional.

“The idea is not that God wants to torture you,” said Dr Sami Alkyam, an adviser to the Islamic Cultural Association. “The idea is to test your limits and see if you can control your desires because that’s the difference between human beings and animals. We both have desires but ours should be controlled and theirs don’t. are not because they haven’t had that mind to choose what is right and wrong for them. The other thing is to reflect and be more grateful for what you have because you miss it the most when you don’t have access to it.

Fasting is used as a means to an end during Ramadan. There is an intention to not only demonstrate superior self-control than an animal, but also to grow spiritually through experience.

“Ramadan is very humbling because I feel like it teaches you a lot of lessons without saying anything,” said Aden Salim, 21. “For example, you go all day without eating, then you drink a bottle of water and have a bag of crisps and you’re full. It’s so easy to see that in the midst of suffering, you can get so caught up in getting what you want that you lose sight of what really awaits you in your future. It’s so easy to get stuck in this vicious circle of “I want this, this, and that right now,” but when you get it, you don’t feel any different. »

While fasting is the aspect most often associated with Ramadan, there are many others that give meaning to the month.

“I personally don’t listen to any music,” Salim said. “Basically the most talked about parts are not eating or drinking, but you’re also supposed to refrain from swearing or using aggressive language, you’re not supposed to fight, steal, swear or masturbate . You’re just supposed to try to be the best person you can be, so it’s not just about food. To paraphrase, in the Hadith it says that if you fast but don’t change any of your habits, you just get an empty stomach for nothing.

Another way Muslims seek self-improvement is through prayer, which is another of the five pillars of Islam and strongly emphasized during Ramadan. Although not all Muslims pray every day throughout the year, Ramadan encourages many to renew the practice.

“I always tell my Muslim students, but it’s not exclusive to Islam, that human beings need checkpoints to function and stay on track,” Alkyam said. “In Islam specifically, the five prayers are repeated and it’s the exact same prayer and exact time every day. No matter what’s on your mind, as soon as you hear the call to prayer, it puts your mind at peace.

Alkyam also elaborated on the meaning of the words “Allahu Akbar” in prayer and how its meaning relates to restlessness.

“It means ‘God is greatest’, which means he is greater than anything you care about,” Alkyam said. “He is bigger than the family you are with. It is bigger than the food you eat.

This year’s Ramadan has been met with more activity than usual. For religious purposes, Muslims follow the lunar calendar, which is based on the phases of the moon. The 12 months of the moon total about 354 days, which pushes Ramadan back about 11 days each year. For the first time since Dr. Alkyam was an undergraduate, Ramadan takes place during the academic year, which posed additional challenges.

“I’ve been fasting since I was a kid, so it’s pretty easy for me,” said ICA President Iman Benharrats, 22. “But this is the first year that we fast during the academic year, so for a lot of people I think it’s very new to try to balance our homework while fasting. It can get difficult sometimes because your energy is low.

This is a reality that Islamic students will have to get used to as Ramadan will now take place during the school year for some time. With the start of summer Ramadan, many aspects of the month will be missed.

“I loved when it was in the summer because I was with my friends and we would go to the mosque and pray at these late night prayers called Tahajjud,” Benharrats said. “We would go to those and it was all night so after that we would go eat or get ice cream before sunrise.”

Alkyam recalled his memories of Ramadan during the summers which seem very different now.

“I have always spent Ramadan with my family and with my mother cooking,” Alkyam said. “To make it more tangible for you, the way we come together for Ramadan, I’ve never seen Americans come together like this on Thanksgiving or Christmas. The difference in my case is that for you it’s is one or two days but in ours it is really a full month.

Despite this, Alkyam appreciates what Allegheny has enabled the ICA to do during this time. The club meets every night to pray together and break the fast with meals prepared in the Schultz Banquet Hall.

“I am very happy that the college gave us the financial capabilities and gave us the space to do this,” Alkyam said. “It mimics the creation of the community that we all miss. The students bonded more because they’ve been eating together for almost 22 days and, at the end of the month, 30 days.

The bond between Islamic students on campus is getting closer as they share their common religious beliefs and practices with each other. However, not all students share this commonality. Alkyam, Salim and Benharrats all echoed remarks that, in general, they have almost always been treated with respect on and off campus as a minority religion.

“I think I’ve met people who have been mostly understanding,” Benharrats said. “I think people are usually just curious, not trying to be rude or anything.”

Benharrats recalled frequent questions she received about not being able to drink water or chew gum. Sometimes the differences go beyond curiosity, such was the case with Salim’s mother.

“I haven’t personally experienced overt racism, but I know my mom used to walk around in her hijab in DC and people would attack her, especially after 9/11,” Salim said. “All his friends and family were telling him not to wear his hijab. Me personally, I just look like a regular old black man, so it’s not like people can tell me ‘I don’t like you because that you’re a muslim” because they don’t even know it. But it really shows that when you say that to someone because you can see it on them, you look stupid because I’m the same person .

Relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been strengthened in several ways.

“It’s a process, not a product,” Alkyam said. “American freedom is not something you find on the street and pick up. This year was better than last year and next year will be better. This train of work that has been started is what I don’t want to see stop.

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