Ramadan marks the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which celebrates God providing the holy book of Islam, the Qur’an, to the prophet Muhammad. This year, Ramadan is observed from March 22 to April 20, in which fasting and communal prayer make up some of the daily practices. The month is a time to honor ṣawm, one of the pillars of Islam, by practicing abstinence from certain activities, piety and self-restraint.
“It is considered one of the blessed months of the Islamic (or) lunar calendar where Muslims all over the world fast from sunrise to sunset,” Yasir Iqbal, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in physics, said. “Fasting includes no food (and) drinks, leisure activities including music (and) sex with the spouse during the fasting period is prohibited.”
When class schedules are set months in advance, it becomes even harder to find ways to set aside adequate time while keeping up with attendance and class assignments.
“I have a lab at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and I do not think that I would have (the) option to change (it) even though it is pretty close to sunset,” Iqbal said.
While Ramadan practices continue for Muslim students when coming to college, it can be harder to keep up with traditions and parts of the holiday when someone is away from home. Ahmed Bayoumi, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering from Cairo, Egypt, says it has been hard to recreate the memories he has of the holiday at home.
“Most of the special ways have fallen out of practice since I’ve come to the states,” Bayoumi said. “Everyone would speak to loads of fun it is to come together for either our dawn or dusk meal … I personally miss some dishes that would only be prepared in Ramadan and the overall ‘Ramadan vibes’ like the decorations, spirituality and community.”
In addition to keeping up with all the traditions celebrated from home, the Muslim community at Tech is a minority, meaning there aren’t as many accommodations or opportunities to participate in certain practices. In Muslim culture, it is customary to alter the daily schedule during Ramadan to make time for special meals and times of prayer.
“Obviously since we’re the minority here neither the government nor the university provides accommodations,” Bayoumi said. “For example, the biggest change that happens back home is work/school hours. Since we are expected to pray more at night and wake up earlier for the dawn meal, the society as a whole becomes more flexible during the day to accommodate napping hours.”
Some students find more community in bigger cities like Dallas, where they can travel to meet up with family and other members of their community to enjoy traditions from their childhood that might not be as accessible and available here.
Menna Elmewaly, a first-year biochemistry student from Cairo, Egypt, said the best way to increase the opportunity and awareness of the holiday is to communicate with peers of other backgrounds and religions.
“I feel like most people don’t know a lot about other cultures and I feel like it would be a really good topic to just talk about and talk about the pros and cons and what it’s like to have a different religion,” Elmewaly said. “I feel like [Ramadan is] a really fun month for people to get to learn about and get to know what other people experience and just get to learn more about as a fun experience.”
Within the Muslim population on the Tech campus, many students come from overseas, making Lubbock their first home in America. It can become even more frustrating when those students feel underrepresented and associate that with the attitudes of the community and country as a whole. With a campus of around 40,000 students, Tech represents a vast range of religions and holidays that go unnoticed as a whole.
“I think Texas Tech is in a special position as the home of Muslims in Lubbock since most of us come from elsewhere to attend college; there are very few Lubbockite Muslims,” Bayoumi said. “ So if they don’t at least take the initiative, who will? Not to mention that it’s an educational institute that has huge potential in spreading awareness of the Muslim community.”
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