Ramadan Mubarak! DePauw Muslim community fasts and celebrates

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Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community, is being preserved and celebrated at DePauw from Friday, April 1 to Sunday, May 1. According to Sami Aziz, the director of the center for spiritual life, fasting is the training of the body, soul, heart, and mind for 30 days. 

“You are training and disciplining yourself basically to detox from greed, selfishness, toxic things in the world. Humans tend to change the environment negatively, and Ramadan reconnects you with nature, realigning your spirit with the universal order, and with the creator of the universe,” Aziz said. 

Vice President of the Muslim Student Association Aneesa Ahmed shared her experience fasting for the first time as a full-time college student after one year of remote studies. “It was harder in a sense that back home, Ramadan is a big thing, you celebrated it with your family, and you ate hometown food. It was hard because I was fasting for the first time as a full-time college student, but I’m now getting more balanced with it,” Ahmed said. She also added that as she lives in a sorority, instead of having meals all together with her housemates as usual, she had to prepare her food and eat inside her room.

Having fasted for two years at DePauw, junior Hamayl Afzal noticed the spiritual differences between fasting at DePauw and in her hometown. “For home, fasting is culture, I would say, and you just do it because everyone was doing it. Over here, it’s more of you want to, because it’s your religion, and you do it because you are very dedicated to it. Also, you don’t have many people around you when you fast, so it’s all about your dedication and determination,” Afzal said. 

Treasurer of the Muslim Student Association Mimi Ukpong also said, “When you fast at home, you fast with a lot of people, a different community vibe. This year, it’s really fun to fast with my friends and be able to have dinner with them at Hoover and have some time that is set aside for us,” Ukpong said.

For Aziz, this year has been the best year of Ramadan since he came to DePauw and became the director of the Center for Spiritual Life, as he believes the Muslim community post-pandemic has come together with a lot of involvement. 

“I have to give credits to the MSA, Abdullah, Aneesa, Mimi, Bisma, Rifatul, and Mahnoor, who meet weekly to plan for these events. I want to shout out to the President, Alan Hill, JC Lopez, and Maureen Carkeek, they have helped tremendously Muslim life on campus. When I got here, Spiritual Life was a room, now we have this whole house. I’m honored to have this position,” Aziz said.

When asked how the university has been supporting the Muslim community, Ukpong said, “I appreciate them because we had some significant problems at the start of our Ramadan, us not having enough good quality food. But when we talked to them, they were very responsive and receptive, they changed the menu to best accommodate us,” Ukpong said. About what DePauw can do more, she thinks some additional recognition will be great.

Sophomore Zaheen Rashed also added, “I think compared to a lot of schools, DePauw is doing a great job but at the same time I think they can do much better and I believe they have the funds to do better but they are not sure how to allocate it,” Rashed said.

Believing in “less is more,” or the minimalism movement, Aziz encouraged the Muslim community to continue preserving the Ramadan tradition. By doing so, Muslim religious beliefs state that all of us are protecting, creating less harm, and taking less from the earth. He also shared a video with students about the benefits of fasting. Ukpong advised incoming Muslim students to “open their heart and mind and be ready for new experiences.”