Iqra Athar ’26
As many of the 1.9 billion Muslims around the world dive into a month-long fasting period, it is not much different for the Muslim students at Trinity. While most Bantams are still asleep, pulling an all-nighter or being held back from bed for any other reason, Muslims around the campus wake up around 4:30 am to the sound of their alarm clocks. About an hour before dawn, they have their meal and gulp down as many glasses of water as they can before they are to abstain from both eating and drinking till sunset. This early meal is called Suhoor, and the meal at sunset—breaking the fast—is called Iftar. Muslims during this period observe their prayers zealously and avoid any worldly pleasures.
However, for many Muslim students, this Islamic month isn’t without its many challenges. With a lot of us being away from the comfort of our family and yummy home-cooked meals, we are further faced with an irregular sleep schedule while trying to keep up with religious observance and academic rigor. This is topped by questions and the exclamations that arise during the fast observance as our non-Muslim colleagues watch us in disbelief, inquiring “not even water?”
Though Islam is one of the world’s fastest-growing religions, often it’s not well understood by many non-Muslims. As a member of the College and global community, it is essential to understand what is important to our diverse friends or peers and observe mindfulness towards their religious practices. Here is a guide for non-Muslims around Ramadan, from Muslims on campus.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and is known as the holiest month in which the scripture was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. It is a period of reflection, thoughtfulness, and communal worship as Muslims gather to break their fast or pray Taraweeh, a late-night prayer. As Muslim students abstain from food and water during daylight hours, they are found eating outside of regular dining space hours. A common misconception related to fasting during Ramadan is starvation. While Muslims don’t eat or drink in the daytime, this does not mean they don’t eat at all or by any means are torturing themselves. Rather, they are spiritually strengthening and disciplining themselves by abstaining from desires. This period also serves to remind Muslims of the less fortunate and reinforce the need to be thankful. It invites one to reflect and give back to the community, attuning space for spirituality as Muslims are encouraged to make better choices. So, do not be concerned if you find your Muslim friend struggling, or walk on eggshells around them by being cautious about what you are drinking or eating in front of them; rather, support them and lend them some encouraging words as they fast during the day. Respect their values and commitment to abide by them—and maybe ask to do an Iftar together.
One common question that many Muslims are asked by their non-Muslim peers regards abstaining from water during fasting. While many non-Muslims are taken aback by this discovery, it is true that a Muslim on fast can’t have water (nor consume or chew on any other substance) from dawn till sunset. But after breaking fast, they are free to eat and drink.
Also, it is important to note that some people are exempt from the fast including those who aren’t able-bodied or healthy enough. This list can include children who have not reached the age of puberty, the elderly, anyone who is ill, taking medicines, pregnant, nursing, or on their period. Even people who are traveling can be exempted. In the end, it is important to realize that Ramadan is by no means a form of punishment but rather an opportunity for those who can perform it. So, if you see a Muslim friend not observing fast, do not be alarmed or call it out. There are a lot of reasons someone might not be fasting. Spirituality is also personal to an individual, so it is best not to pry.
Lastly, one may observe differences among Muslims who are fasting. For example, not all Muslims start fasting on the same day, or the time one breaks their fast may be different from another Muslim individual breaking fast. This is possible since there are many schools of thought and Fiqh, jurisprudence within Islam, as well as sectarian differences. It is important to realize that Muslims are not a homogenous group. Regardless, all Muslims do share many common values or notable events, like observing a common holiday called Eid-ul-Fitr, a three-day celebration or festival of breaking the fast, at the end of Ramadan.
When in doubt or have any other questions, do not hesitate to ask your Muslim friend. It is through learning that one can create a bridge. Instead of considering Ramadan as another thing that makes us different, it can be a thing that brings us all together. Ramadan is, after all, a communal celebration.
Ramadan Mubarak! (Have a blessed Ramadan!)
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