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Students tackle obstacles during Ramadan

Once a year, during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims across the world embark on a spiritual journey by fasting from sunrise to sunset, and being on a college campus can pose additional challenges.

Out of the five pillars of Islam that Muslims are compelled to perform, fasting for Ramadan is the fourth pillar, called Sawm.

“When you ask a Muslim why they are fasting, it’s not just abstaining from food and drink,” Nikhut Siddique, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said. “It’s fasting with your ears, mouth and eyes — abstaining from things that would take you away from God.”

The month of fasting began Monday evening and will continue until Aug. 7. Not only does the fast include food and drink, but also everyday desires such as sexual activity and smoking.

“There are temptations, but you have to remember that you are doing this for God and for Him alone,” Siddique said. “This is a really holy month. It is meant to bring you closer to God and strengthen your relationship with Him.”

Ahsan Ikram, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said Ramadan is a sacred time for worship, spirituality and concentration.

“It makes you feel grateful about what you have,” Ikram said. “(Ramadan) makes you realize that other people in the world don’t have as much as you do.”

Going a day in Florida without a sip of water may seem like a difficult task for most, but Muslim students at USF find a way to cope.

“As long as you drink a lot of fluids before sunrise, then you’ll be fine,” Ikram said. “It’s not that bad as long as you keep yourself indoors most of the time. That’s what I usually do.”

Ikram said he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to eat before sunrise and then goes to class at 9 a.m.

Homam Zituni, a senior majoring in mass communications, said he has
practiced Ramadan long enough to handle the requirements that come with worship.

“It’s something you practice from an early age, and you kind of get used to it,” Zituni said. “I started when I was 13, and I’m 20 now. It’s difficult. You can’t really do any intense sports or exercise — at least not in this kind of weather.”

Even though those participating have to give up everyday things for an entire month, Siddique, Zituni and Ikram said they believe struggles are worth it for worship and the spiritual journey.

The end of Ramadan is a three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr, meaning “Feast of Breaking the Fast.” But for now, Zituni, Ikram, Siddique and other Muslim students at USF will experience their spiritual journey and learn the fortunes of life by taking them away.

“Ramadan is a reminder,” Zituni said. “It helps me remember that, hey, at least I get to eat and drink everyday. At least I live in comfort and not in conditions where my life would be in constant danger, whether it would be lack of food or more things around those lines.”