Observing Ramadan at Latin

Robert Igbokwe, Editor-in-Chief

*Click on the hyperlinked names for audio clips of interviews
During the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world participate in the holy month of fasting known as Ramadan. The month is a time for introspection, appreciation, forgiveness, and prayer in the Muslim community. But with such a small community of Muslims at the school, some feel the tradition is misunderstood and often overlooked by other students.
Four Muslim students have decided to help explain what the tradition is, and what observing Ramadan means to them. Freshman and co-founder of Latin’s Islamic Club, Noor Ahmed, explained the religious origins of the tradition. “This is the month that our prophet Muhammad revealed the Qurʾān, which is our holy book,” she said. “It’s a very important time for us in our religion, so from sunrise to sunset throughout this whole month, we don’t eat or drink anything.”
Because the Islamic calendar follows the Lunar calendar, the start and end of Ramadan are dependent on the phases of the moon. Sophomore Rashail Wasim said, “Ramadan starts with the new moon and ends after a full moon cycle, when the new moon is sighted again.” The start and end of Ramadan are determined by a moon-sighting committee in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. However, because the phase of the moon changes from location to location, the Imam, or prayer leader of a Mosque, often determines when the new moon has appeared.
A frequent misconception about Ramadan is that it is a holiday. Sophomore Zemzem Mohammed said, “A lot of people confuse Ramadan with a holiday when it reality, it’s not. This month is considered a holy month when a lot of Muslims can take more time to pray and appreciate our lives.” While the month is very important in the Islamic faith, it is not necessarily celebrating anything. Senior Noor Kamal, explained that the month is devoted to recognizing one’s privileges and giving back to their community. She said, “To me, Ramadan is a month to concentrate on family, forgiveness, and being your best self. This comes with fasting which is what a lot of people know it for. The reason why people fast is to humble themselves and Ramadan is all about giving to others and considering other perspectives. So the emphasis on fasting is important because we are trying to care about other people’s perspectives and empathize with them.”
In observance of Ramadan, Muslims focus on one of the five Pillars of Islam, Sawm, meaning ‘to refrain.’ That not only includes fasting, but also avoiding lies, swearing, immoral behavior, and immoral thoughts. Noor Ahmed said, “[Ramadan] is really important because when you’re not fasting, it’s your normal life and you have your own problems. But I think taking away something like food and drink, it makes you really appreciate what you have, and you have a lot of time to reflect on yourself and your religion. It’s really a month of clarity to me.
“Many Muslims volunteer or perform other righteous acts during the month, using the empathy they’ve gained during this month of abstinence to help those less fortunate.”
On their experience with observing Ramadan at Latin, the students felt that the school was as supportive as they could be throughout the month. Zemzem Mohammed said, “Simple things like climbing up the stairs can be hard because you have no food in your system and you’re dehydrated. But I talked to Mr. Edwards and he agreed to let us use the elevator which has been really helpful.”
Noor Ahmed, who along with Elise Maajid worked with the school to create a space for Muslims to pray throughout the day, agreed saying, “I think Latin as a school has been really helpful with getting us what we need. There weren’t really any problems that I faced when trying to get [the room]. This is my first year here and I just thought that Latin could be more open to communicating that students are practicing this religion in a social space where other people are practicing other religions or they’re not. I think for some Muslims, it’s a little hard to gain comfort in this school. But Latin has been so supportive and has given me so much help in trying to make [the prayer room] a reality, and I think that they really made this the easiest thing for me to do at this school.”
What is Ramadan | BBC