While striving to take their minds off food, the Muslim Student Association met in the Student Center on Wednesday to share stories about their summers and discuss plans for the semester.
Ramadan, the Muslim observance comprised of a month of fasting from sun up to sun down, began Monday. For some students, the transition to college has affected the Ramadan experience.
Imran Aslam, freshman integrated life sciences major, said growing up, Ramadan was an important time to strengthen bonds with his community.
“At home, my dad would wake me up as early as 4:30 a.m. and cook me breakfast,” he said.
Each night after a day of fasting he would share a late meal with his family and friends. Each meal provided the opportunity to celebrate God together and reflect on another day of humbleness and self-sacrifice as a community.
Kent State has led him to a new community.
When Ramadan began, there were people all around him who did not understand why he was not eating. At first he said he felt like he was on his own, but soon he found other Muslim students in his classes to share prayers and meals.
“There are six Muslim guys I met in the accelerated medical program,” he said. “One night we all got together with two Indian girls we know who cooked us a huge dinner. It was awesome.”
Nida Khan, senior communication studies major, has developed a similar support system in her four years at Kent State.
“I was the first Muslim student to attend my public high school,” she said. “It took my classmates a long time to accept me.”
During Ramadan she was the only student who did not eat lunch. At first her classmates gave her a hard time, but toward the end of the month they began to understand and respect what she was doing. Some of them even tried fasting with her.
As a member of the Muslim Student Association she is surrounded by a group of peers who share the holiday.
One of those peers is Yacine Djemil, junior accounting major and president of the Muslim Student Association.
As a commuter student, he said he is lucky he is still able to eat meals with his family.
He finds some days more challenging than others
“Tuesdays and Thursdays I have one class in the morning,” he said. “I drive 45 minutes to campus, and after my class gets out, I am hungry for the rest of the day.”
Other students are not able to spend the month with family. In the Muslim Student Association, about half of the students are American-born, while the other half are foreign exchange students who have come to America for college. Almost every student in the Muslim Student Association has extended family overseas, and communication is emphasized during Ramadan.
Because the holiday begins and ends according to the universal lunar calendar, Muslims all over the world are able to devote themselves to God together at the same time.
While a global community is emphasized, Djemil described Ramadan as both a shared and a personal journey. It is up to each person to decide his or her level of self-sacrifice.
“Some people go about their days normally, but do not eat between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.,” he said. “Others cut out movies and music and go as far as unplugging the television and deactivating Facebook.”
The holiday is designed for personal growth. Each person is encouraged to pray more frequently, to spend quality time with family, and to help others who are less fortunate.
“Each good deed is magnified during Ramadan,” he said. “And although it can be tough, ask any Muslim what their favorite month of the year is and I bet they will say Ramadan,” Djemil said.
Contact religion reporter Samantha Laros at [email protected]