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The Quad: Observing Ramadan on campus, Muslim students reflect personally and spiritually

Students who are part of the Muslim Student Association on campus celebrate Ramadan together. (Courtesy of Nigah Farooqi)

By Myra Hussain

April 20, 2023 1:56 p.m.

Many Muslim students are observing fasting and sharing religious experiences as they celebrate Ramadan away from home.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a time for religious and spiritual devotion in which Muslims practice self-restraint, patience and empathy for people who are unable to afford basic resources. Ramadan began on March 22 and will end on April 21.

In Ramadan, it is typical to partake in two meals – one called suhoor, which is consumed before dawn, and iftar, which is eaten immediately after sunset. Besides these two meals, Muslims do not eat anything throughout the day.

Ramadan is also a time to reflect spiritually and personally. Mohsin Ali, an Islamic studies lecturer, said Ramadan is one of the most fundamental rituals within Islam and the holiday aims to foster patience within individuals.

“Fasting in Ramadan is considered one of the most fundamental rituals … by many Muslims,” Ali said. “It also helps to ideally make one more patient because fasting can be very trying. … On the one hand, you’re starving your body, you’re depriving it of nutrients, on the other hand, you’re trying to raise to a higher standard of ethical living.”

Sajaa Ahmad, a fourth-year cognitive science student, said she uses the month as a way to reset her mind and be thankful for what she has.

“I just take it as time to reset and work on myself in a number of ways, like being more grateful,” Ahmad said. “When I finally get to eat, I just feel so grateful for anything, everything.”

Some Bruins have also found a community on campus through student organizations where they can celebrate Ramadan away from home. The Muslim Student Association on campus often hosts events where Bruins can break their fasts together and spend time reading the Quran during Ramadan.

Nigah Farooqi, a third-year biology student, said staying connected with her friends through community iftars and suhoors hosted by MSA has helped her have a support system during Ramadan.

“All the community events they’re (MSA) doing, I think is the best way to be connected,” Farooqi said. “Also, it’s just the community we have when we’re sitting together and sharing experiences of Ramadan – how we used to do it at home and now how we’re doing it here.”

Ahmad added that Ramadan is the most popular time when students attend community events.

“I’ve been part of the Ramadan committee last year and this year, and I’ve gotten the chance to help set up, clean up and serve food,” Ahmad said. “I think Ramadan is the most popular month. Everyone comes out regardless of if they’re involved in MSA.”

Additionally, UCLA dining serves Halal food, which contains meat prepared in a way that is permissible to consume under Islam, at Epicuria during Ramadan, aiming to make suhoor and iftar accessible to Bruins living on the Hill. However, adding alcohol to the cooking process can defeat the initiative’s purpose, since that is not Halal.

Ali added that UCLA could also accommodate Muslim students by informing professors that students may be extra tired during the weeks of Ramadan.

“A lot of college campuses will have a statement that’s passed around to faculty and staff that a lot of students are going to be fasting because of Ramadan. So they’re going to be a bit more tired … because nights are busy,” Ali said. “Some students’ productivity might dip because of these activities for a few weeks.”

Some individuals may also set spiritual goals for themselves during Ramadan while handling school and fasting.

“I personally had a goal to finish the Quran this Ramadan. So maybe that’s one of my spiritual things I’m trying to do which definitely gets hard during classes, but just having those personal goals for you and seeing how much you can get done,” Farooqi said.

A congregational prayer called Taraweeh at night can help form a vibrant Muslim community in places of worship during Ramadan.

“The nights of Ramadan are believed to be very blessed,” Ali said. “It becomes an important moment in terms of the soundscape of Ramadan, from the hustle and bustle of the Iftar to the beautiful recitations at nighttime.”

Ramadan can be a time for students to bond through communal gatherings and stay spiritually connected. The month-long devotion to abstinence may encourage Muslim students to share their experiences together and form friendships along the way.

“All these community events, they’re really trying to ingrain into people and really promoting them so people can attend, which I think is the best part of Ramadan here,” Farooqi said.

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