Muslim students share Ramadan experiences

By Elisa Espinoza

The Whatcom Community College Muslim Students Association hosted a dinner in celebration of Ramadan, the month of fasting, which is one of the five pillars of Islam that Muslims follow.
The dinner took place in the Syre Auditorium May 22, from 7:30 to 10 p.m..
Tahani Al-fazel, a student and president of the MSA, said about 160 people attended the event.
She said the dinner’s purpose was “spreading awareness, educating people, being together with other Muslims, breaking our fast and sharing the tradition.”
The dinner initiated with an introduction and a recitation of the first chapter of the Quran.
Following this, the MSA presented a keynote speaker, Erum Mohiuddin, who talked about what it’s like to fast for a month and explained what this practice means for Muslims.
The event also featured a student panel formed by MSA members in which they responded to questions previously written by the attendees on index cards.
The students talked about what Ramadan has taught them, and their struggles while fasting in different environments such as school and work.
A member of Western Washington University’s MSA, Abdallah Salam, presented a stand-up comedy monologue in which he joked about his personal experiences while fasting.
Dinner was served at 9 p.m. as Iftar, the time to break the fast, started. Attendees ate halal food, food permitted by the Quran, from the restaurant Tandoori Bites.
The menu consisted of butter chicken, paneer tikka masala, basmati rice, naan and raita.
Before eating a full meal, the Muslims attendees first broke their fast with dates and water. After this, they united to perform the Maghrib prayer, their fourth prayer of the day.
All of the attendees enjoyed their food and conversed in the auditorium until 10 p.m.
“The outside community was very supportive and it was actually overwhelming for me to experience that much support,” said Al-fazel about all the people who attended the event.
As a leader, Al-fazel’s main focus is building an understanding community.
MSA fluctuates between 10 to 15 members. “We all come from different backgrounds and different ways that we practice our religion,” said Al-fazel .
Since most of the members didn’t grow up in the US, Al-fazel considers “having a safe space where we can be ourselves,” to be very important.
Al-fazel moved to the US from Saudi Arabia. In her country, Al-fazel used to break her fast and pray with her family every day.
This is her second year fasting in the US.
“It is definitely challenging,” said Al-fazel.
Al-fazel says Ramadan has taught her patience and it represents an opportunity to “humble us and remind us of people who don’t have food.”
“We are more generous when we have experienced hunger,” said Al-fazel as she explained that along with fasting, Muslims are also encouraged to practice “zakāt” or charity, another essential pillar of Islam.
Iman Jamal is an international student from Ethiopia and a member of MSA.
Jamal explained that in that in the month of Ramadan, good deeds are multiplied and that’s why Ramadan is called the “holy month.”
For Jamal, Ramadan represents an opportunity to experience of how people who don’t have enough food and water to live, and it shows her “how I should humble myself and be patient.”
In her hometown, the majority of people are Muslims.
“When you have supporters, when you have people with you fasting, it’s kind of easier. Here a lot of people are eating in front of you and most of them don’t know what Ramadan is,” said Jamal.
In the US, Muslims must fast from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m., and throughout the day they find themselves dehydrated and sleep deprived while being required to perform in their regular activities, explained Jamal.
“I feel like they should understand what fasting means and how it affects me and my fellow Muslims,” said Jamal.
Anthony Blackwell is a veteran student at Whatcom who decided to attend the Ramadan dinner to learn more about Muslim culture and to show support to MSA.
As a veteran, Blackwell has visited different Middle Eastern countries. He said that he has realized the typical American views on Islam are often incorrect.
“Every opportunity I get to learn more, I try,” he said.
Blackwell said to have enjoyed the food, the informational video that students prepared and the student panel.
“It was a comfortable and warm conversation,” he said.
“I didn’t know that for Ramadan you don’t drink water either. That was very surprising.” said Blackwell.
“For anyone who does not know anything about Ramadan or Muslims, it is better to get first hand knowledge and going to MSA, as opposed to just taking someone else’s word on it who doesn’t even practice the culture,” said Blackwell.

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