Muslim students explain traditions, customs of celebrating Ramadan

Courtney Cook

Although Ramadan marks a month of fasting for Muslims, Yacine Djemil said whenever he smells bourak, a Muslim dish his mom makes, he knows the holy month has arrived. Djemil, leader of the Muslim Students’ Association at Kent State, said breaking fast at his home in Cleveland is a great time for him.

“There’s definitely specific Ramadan food,” he said. “Like bourak. It looks like a cigar or an egg roll and it’s filled with potatoes, meat and vegetables.”

The first day of Ramadan began last night at sundown.

“It’s like an extra time to do good things,” Djemil said. “What good you do during Ramadan is amplified.”

He said Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset for the entire month. Muslims are also not to smoke, drink alcohol or have sex for all of Ramadan.

However, Djemil said he is more conservative than other Muslims.

“I don’t even listen to music or watch movies,” Djemil said. “Well, not all music is created equal. I won’t even turn on the radio, though, because so many songs are offensive or have swearing in them.”

Djemil then joked about wanting to watch “Superbad” before Ramadan began.

“The point of Ramadan is so you get closer to God and take distractions out of your life to leave more room for worship,” he said. “It’s not like movies and music are bad, it’s just the idea of freeing up extra time for God.”

Sheema Samdani, senior integrated life sciences major and MSA member, said she will listen to light music, such as classical.

“I have to have something going on when I’m studying usually,” she said. “Some kind of soft music is OK.”

Eyad Gheith, junior pubic relations major at The University of Akron, said he goes out less, improves his grades and exercises during Ramadan. He does not drink, smoke, gamble, swear, or have sex and also fasts every day. He said if he gets sick during Ramadan and can’t fast for a day, he will fast another day later in the year to make up for it.

“I feel very blessed,” Gheith said. “There are so many unfortunate people who are hungry in this world. I just have to fast for the day and know I can eat when I get home. Not everyone has that luxury. It’s very humbling.”

Djemil said in Cleveland Muslim families and mothers literally fight to be the host house for the weekends. He said he has plans for each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during Ramadan, plus some week night dinners too.

Samdani said her mother is working with nine different families right now in preparation for a big potluck dinner at the end of Ramadan.

Djemil said there are Muslims who don’t always follow the general guidelines of Islam during the year.

“There are Muslims who drink, date, curse and party on a regular basis,” he said. “But, Ramadan is serious. I know guys who go out, but once Ramadan comes, they respect the month and act appropriately.”

Gheith said he leads a respectful life but is more careful to remove distraction during Ramadan.

“You can’t be your average self,” he said. “No drinking, smoking, partying. It’s a time to respect God in your life and show your respect by behaving.”

Samdani said she loves the month of Ramadan.

“It’s about self control and discipline a lot of the time,” she said. “If I can go out to a party and not do anything I’m not supposed to do, then I feel good about myself.”

Djemil agreed, saying it’s a really fun and festive time.

“It’s definitely my favorite month.” Djemil said. “I look forward to it every year.”

The Kent State Muslim Student Association meets Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. in Student Center room 314. The prayer room is located in Student Center room 308.

Contact religion reporter Courtney Cook at [email protected].