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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Muslims observe Ramadan, celebrate Islamic Awareness Week

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, began last week with the sighting of a new crescent moon. 

Arafat Al
Students celebrated Islamic Awareness Week on campus from March 20 to 24.

During the month-long observance of Ramadan from March 22 to April 20, Muslims will abstain from eating and drinking from the time the sun rises to the time it sets. As the month progresses, the length of the fasting period will gradually increase. 

Senior Arafat Aliyi, president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), said that Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam that defines what it means to be Muslim. Ramadan is believed to be the month that the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to prophet Muhammad, and fasting is a way of showing reverence for the Qur'an and its teachings.

Mirza Family Professor of Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies Ebrahim Moosa said that Ramadan is "an act of obedience to God."

Fasting is an important aspect of Ramadan because it is a personal act that requires people to test their commitment to God. 

"Muslims understand that fasting is something that awakens your spiritual consciousness and makes you more aware of who you are and your surroundings," Moosa said. "It’s a way of showing your dedication and commitment to God and also developing empathy for others."

In addition to fasting, Muslims also engage in acts of devotion like voluntary nighttime prayers, additional readings of the Qur’an, giving back to charity and striving to do good deeds. 

Aliyi said Ramadan is a time of self-improvement and that the goal is to carry out good deeds from Ramadan throughout the rest of the year and continue to build on them during the next Ramadan. 

"You always know it's been a good Ramadan if you have left one bad habit and picked up another good habit," Aliyi said. "If you feel better that probably means that you have done good for this Ramadan."

Fasting on campus 

When Aliyi was a first-year student, there weren’t accommodations for students that were fasting for Ramadan. On the weekends, the dining halls would close more than an hour before sundown, so students would have to find another way to get food. 

During her time at the university, the MSA has worked with Campus Dining to create a schedule that allows students to pick up take-away food that they can reheat later. 

"There was an issue, but we voiced our concern and [Campus Dining] was more than happy to help out," Aliyi said. 

Students are given a dinner meal box with halal meat and poultry and a brown-bag breakfast to eat before dawn. The dinner boxes also contain dates and water, which are typically used to break fast.

Prayer spaces 

Muslims also have access to a prayer room on the first floor of the Coleman-Morse Center and in Jenkins Nanovic Hall. 

Moosa said that there are additional nightly ‘tarawih’ prayers during Ramadan, so having prayer spaces on campus that are available to students is important. 

Every Friday, the MSA holds a midday ‘jum’ah’ prayer in Jenkins Nanovic Hall where students can come together to pray. 

Cultivating a community at Notre Dame

Moosa said that around the world, Muslims observe Ramadan as a community. People gather at one another’s houses to break fast and family and friends come together to show solidarity with one another. 

However, at Notre Dame, only a small portion of students observe Ramadan. 

Aliyi said her first few Ramadans at school were challenging and looked a lot different than when she was at home. She said it is important to make sure that younger students observing Ramadan get the support they need and one of the MSA’s goals this year was to hold events to bring Muslim students and the tri-campus community together. 

"[Ramadan] is an opportunity for Muslims to come together as a community and strengthen their bonds through shared experiences of worship and breaking the fast together," Aliyi said.

Islamic Awareness Week

Last week, the MSA hosted Islamic Awareness Week which featured a series of gatherings and events to mark the beginning of the month of Ramadan. 

The week-long programming began with "What is Islam?" which provided a space for students to ask questions and learn about the core beliefs of Islam.

On Tuesday, hijabs from local businesses were distributed to students to mark Hijab Day. At the event, students discussed how wearing a hijab is a way for people to proclaim their faith and gain a sense of empowerment, Aliyi said.  

“It was a way to commemorate the fact that it was Women’s History Month [last month] and we talked about that through the lens of a person who wears a hijab,” Aliyi continued. 

Other events included Muslims from around the world speaking with students about what Islam means to them and how they celebrate Islam in their own cultures, and the interfaith conference that discussed different approaches to issues like human rights and dignity towards oneself and the community.

The week ended with a dinner banquet on Friday where students gathered to eat and celebrate Ramadan. 

The MSA wanted to hold these events not only to engage Muslims on campus but also other members of the tri-campus community. “MSA is for everyone,” Aliyi said.

She also said Muslim students are more than willing to answer questions about Ramadan and their experiences. 

"There are so many things that you can learn and it doesn’t matter what [religion] you are from, there are so many commonalities" Aliyi said. "[Asking questions] is a great way for you to learn to understand others while not always having to agree with them."