Muslim students reflect on observing, navigating Ramadan this year

Senior Ayaan Siddiqui wakes up before sunrise at 5:30 a.m. for his pre-fast meal and prayer for the entire month of April, observing Ramadan during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

This year, Ramadan started on April 1 and ended on May 1. Siddiqui said the month is spent as a time to reflect and reconnect spiritually. 

“For all Muslims, Ramadan is supposed to be a time to get closer to God,” Siddiqui said. “Although I usually pray at least once a day, I do make an extra effort to pray five times a day during Ramadan and keep as many fasts as I can. Ramadan is also a good time to connect with Muslims in my community at the local mosque.”

Muslims fast – no eating or drinking from dawn to dusk – during Ramadan to honor their religion, said Zeyad Zaky, a local youth group leader. 

“During this month, we give up basic needs during the daylight hours in order to internalize self-restraint and discipline and to achieve a remembrance of our Lord,” Zaky said.

Sophomore Raed Sheikh said he sees fasting as an opportunity for personal growth.

“I fast for Ramadan because I believe it teaches me self-control, self-discipline and empathy for those who are less fortunate,” Sheikh said. 

Sheikh said a common question from many non-Muslims is how those who fast can physically and mentally survive without eating or drinking during the day. Sheikh said with experience, fasting is not much of a challenge. 

“To be honest, I was quite used to (fasting),” Sheikh said. “After a while, it became fairly easy for me, but I actually remember the first time I fasted. I was miserable. I was very sick, and my stomach grumbled a lot.” 

While Siddiqui said he has also gotten used to fasting during Ramadan, he said he occasionally feels some negative health effects but that his focus is on God during this time.

“I’ve been fasting since middle school, so it’s not that hard anymore,” Siddiqui said. “However, I do notice that I get a headache if I spend too much time in the gym or doing any other strenuous physical activity.” 

Zaky also said Muslims practice acts of philanthropy and benevolence during the month of Ramadan. 

“In this month, Muslims are encouraged to be generous with their charitable deeds and must in fact give a specific donation called Zakat-ul-Fitr,” Zaky said. “This specific donation aids underprivileged individuals in having some funds to enjoy the Eid celebration.”

During this month of observation, it is essential non-Muslims learn how to be respectful regarding their religion, Zaky says. He said non-Muslims should try to be sensitive to food around Muslim friends during this time. 

“I think teams should shy away from organizing food and drink events during the month that may make those who are fasting feel excluded,” Zaky said. “Another issue I’ve seen is people asking some Muslims why they are not fasting. Many Muslims have medical conditions that prevent them from fasting, and they may already feel they are missing out on their favorite time of year because they cannot fully participate. This is their business and people should not ask or probe as to why they are not taking part.”