Imagine rushing from class to class without being able to grab a coffee or a snack. Think about trying to hit the gym with nothing in your stomach and without a sip of water. Every year, Muslims put themselves into the shoes of those less fortunate in an attempt to grow as a person. Ramadan is a month-long ritual, based on the Islamic lunar calendar. Once the new moon has passed and the crescent moon shows, 30 days of fasting begin.
Rules of Ramadan
Fasting, called sawm, isn’t required of those who are sick, young children or pregnant women. So if you’re Muslim and in good health, you can’t consume anything from sunrise until sunset. That means you can’t grab a Red Bull before work or even chew a piece of gum during class.
“It’s kind of hard to concentrate by the end of the day, but I try to adjust my schedule to make it work,” freshmen Nora Swellam said.
According to Basic Principles of Islam by Shareef Ahmad, “fasting is both a physical and spiritual experience.” In general, it is required that a fasting Muslim holds a high set of morals, a commitment that takes a lot of willpower.
“I find myself cursing less, interacting more politely and being more respectful on a daily basis,” said Ashfaq Khan, a board member of the Muslim Student Association.
Rationale of Ramadan
Some may wonder why a Muslim student would even bother adding so much pressure on top of everyday stresses. Ramadan is the fourth of the five Pillars of Islam. The other four Pillars of Islam include: acceptance of Allah as the one and only god, prayer five times a day, donation to those less fortunate and a pilgrimage to Mecca once in one’s lifetime, if possible.
“It helps (me) grow as a person, worrying less about food and drinks and more about the important aspects of life,” Swellam said.
According to many interpretations of the Qur’an, those who fast will be forgiven of their sins. Ramadan is also thought to strengthen willpower and endurance.
“It changes you as an individual and provides you with more sympathy for the hungry,” Khan said.
Rewards of Ramadan
One won’t walk into a Muslim’s family room and see a giant tree surrounded by presents, but taking part in the annual fast doesn’t go without rewards. Following the last day of Ramadan is a of celebration referred to as Eid. On this day, phone calls are made to wish family and friends the best. Many mosques hold a breakfast on the morning of Eid -this is a chance for the community to gather, pray and review the lessons of the month.
“During Ramadan, the community becomes closer, sharing meals at the mosque and staying more connected,” Swellam said. The mosques often set up a small carnival for children to enjoy on Eid. Many parents give young children gifts and older children money, but the real benefit comes in the sense of accomplishment that blesses all by the end of the month.
In accordance with their religion, Muslims fast to understand how fortunate they are.
“It all makes sense at the end of the month,” Khan said.
Fasting all day isn’t easy, but it’s easier than living the reality of poverty everyday. Most people have seen starving children in third-world countries on the television, but in experiencing hunger for themselves, they can better understand their blessings.