By Ikra Islam ’19
In interest of full disclosure, Ikra Islam’ 19 is a member of the Muslim Students Association.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, when Muslims are required to fast for 30 days from sunrise to sunset, in order to complete the fourth pillar of Islam known as Sawm. Sawm requires Muslims to abstain from any acts that nullify one’s fast such as eating, drinking water, smoking, listening to music and having sexual intercourse.
The month of Ramadan is also considered a holy month because it is believed that is when the Quran was sent down to the Prophet Muhammad.
This year to kick off the month of Ramadan, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) hosted a Ramadan awareness campaign called “A Date For Ramadan.” This campaign strives to address the many misconceptions about Ramadan and gives non-muslims insight into the Ramadan experience that many of their peers share. On May 16, members of the MSA handed out flyers, dates, and buttons, with humorous jokes alluding to various Ramadan practices and traditions.
Students began planning for the event in early May, after attending the High School MSA Council Summit, where they met with members from various MSA groups all throughout New York City.
“We were inspired by an event that Townsend Harris MSA held at their school,” said Jafrin Uddin’ 19 Vice President, “After the event, it became very apparent to us that a lot of students didn’t know what Ramadan was about and why we choose fast.”
Soon after, members of the MSA were asked about the many misconceptions they believed that a lot of their friends had about Ramadan. Many mentioned that their peers were surprised when they were told that drinking water was not permissible during fasting hours. The idea of exempting one’s self from water, a basic necessity, seemed a little overboard to many.
“We tried to put everything into context, We explained that there are millions of people who don’t have access to drinkable water, therefore during Ramadan, we rid ourselves of the many luxuries we are afforded to experience the struggles some people are forced to face on the daily,” said Nisa Ali ’19.
During Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to give generously to their communities through donations and/or by volunteering time. Giving back to the less fortunate is heavily emphasized.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the month of Sawm, when we’re no longer required to fast. However, before continuing on with our celebrations we are required to make a charitable donation to the less fortunate.
“Ramadan is one of the happiest times of the year. During this time of the year, we get to spend more time with family, we get to break our fast with the best foods, and we become more spiritual,” said Shahida Islam ’19.
Although it is important that Muslims fast during Ramadan it is not mandatory for all people. Ramadan has been made easier for the elderly, pregnant, menstruating, traveling or sick by exempting them from the required fasts.
Those who are unable to maintain fast due to conditional circumstances are allowed to make up for the missed days at a later time. This flexibility allows many to carry on with their regular routine, such as playing sports.
For students playing on sports team Ramadan can be quite challenging, especially since drinking water is not permissible;
However, coaches have been understanding by allowing students to sit out during practices and games.
Maisha Hanif ‘19, a player on the Girls Flag Football Team said, “Our first game was a challenge because it was also the first day of fasting, but luckily we pushed through and we won!”
Hajira Ishitiqa ’19 said, “Our coaches know we’re fasting so they don’t expect us to do intense workouts, but we still have to show up to practices,”
Since this year Ramadan overlaps with Regents week and the June SAT, students are left debating whether they should skip fasting on exam days.
Sara Omran’ 19 said, “It’s always a struggle choosing between the two, but I think it’s okay as long as you make it up later.”
Ramadan poses various challenges for both students and teachers who are fasting. Teachers, unlike students, aren’t exempt from their work due to their fast. Despite the hunger pangs and headaches, teachers must continue to instruct their classes as they regularly would.
The month of Ramadan pushes one’s limits and forces one to reevaluate conditions. Regardless of the challenges, this month poses, students remain optimistic. In efforts to continue their Ramadan awareness campaign, the MSA encourages its members to volunteer at local soup kitchens, donate generously to charities, and invite their non-Muslim friends to Iftar.