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Muslim students reflect on Ramadan, fasting

July 7, 2015

East Lansing resident Abdullah Sallman, 9, prays Aug. 6, 2010, at the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing, 920 S. Harrison Road. Members of the mosque and Muslims across the world are preparing for the month of Ramadan.

Photo by Sam Mikalonis | The State News

Muslim students are fasting during the holy month of the Islamic calendar, which is called Ramadan. For some international students, the difference of observing the holy month in the U.S. presents a challenge.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. This year, it started on the evening of June 18 and will last until July 17.  

During Ramadan, "people would read from Quran more than they typically do. People would donate more than they typically donate. People will pray more than they typically pray," said Mohammad Hassan Khalil , director of the Muslim Studies Program, and also an associate professor of religious studies at MSU

Fasting is a central part of observing Ramadan and the religious experience.

"The goal of fasting is to obtain God consciousness, " Khalil said. 

Abdullah Ahmed Boshgeia, a mechanical engineering freshman originally from Saudi Arabia, said fasting consists of refraining from food and drink during the day.

When the sun rises in the early morning, Muslims hold their first prayer. The fourth prayer of the day takes place at sunset. After that, they can break their fast for the night.  

"During Ramadan, it helps you get closer to God," Mohamed Abukar, vice president of Somali Association of Michigan, said. You also get (a) sense of many things."

International students at MSU have a different experience of Ramadan in the U.S.

"We miss the environment of Ramadan," said Fatima Abdulmohsen Alsaif, sophomore human resource management student at MSU, originally from Saudi Arabia. 

In Alsaif's country, people would do worship and prayer in the mornings and evenings, so companies start work later than usual and have a different time schedule for work. 

Khalil said restaurants in predominately Muslim countries will accommodate for the fasting by staying open later.

But here at MSU, non-Muslims might not know about the restrictions of Ramadan, making it harder for students observing the holy month.

"Muslims cannot get mad during Ramadan, but random people do not understand and eat in front them," Abukar said. "I used to feel uncomfortable, but now I'm OK."  

"Fasting here is way longer than in my country," Boshgeia said. "Here we cannot eat till around 9:30 p.m. In my country, the sunset time would usually be around 5 p.m." 

Some students enjoy observing Ramadan here, Khalil said, because East Lansing is a smaller community and they can focus on their prayers. 

"You are more likely to have (a) gathering with people who are not only your relatives," Khalil said.

Ramadan, Abukar said, is also a time of self-reflection and self-improvement.

"It helps to make yourself a better person, and it gives you time to reflect on yourself," Abukar said.

Boshgeia said the most difficult part of doing Ramadan is "being yourself and being humble to yourself," because "with doing fasting and prayers, you will start thinking about who you truly are." 

At the end of the holy month, there is festival of breaking the fast called "Eid al-Fitr," Khalil said.

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