The Islamic holy month of Ramadan lasts from April 12 at sundown to May 12 this year. Muslim students at IU are celebrating it on campus for the first time since 2011 after missing the chance last year, since students were sent home due to COVID-19.
Ramadan begins 10 to 12 days earlier each year since years in the Islamic lunar Hijri calendar are shorter than the Gregorian calendar, which most countries use today.
Since IU closed its campus last March because of the pandemic, the last time an in-person fall or spring semester at IU overlapped with Ramadan was in fall 2011, when school started on Aug. 29 and Ramadan ended at sundown on Aug. 30 with the appearance of the crescent moon.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast when the sun is up. The Islamic calendar month is a month for prayers, gathering and self-discipline, said Sufyan Zackariya, Muslim Student Association vice president.
“A lot of people, they love Ramadan because this is one time of the year that they get to see family,” he said. “They get to get closer to their religion. They're more connected with everything around them.”
Zackariya said fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. He said the Ramadan tradition reminds Muslims that eating shouldn’t be the primary focus in life.
Coverage from last year: [IU Muslim community celebrates Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr despite coronavirus]
“Muslims believe in the concept that we have two lives, and that this life is temporary, and the afterlife is forever, or is everlasting,” he said. “Not eating reminds us that we still have God, and we should spend more time dedicated towards God.”
Ramadan is also a time for Muslims to educate themselves and others about Islam, Zackariya said. He said last year’s Zoombombing incident during MSA’s callout meeting was a reminder there are intolerant people, but once people understand Islam, they would understand it is a peaceful religion.
“If they got to know someone who was Muslim, or if they got to understand Islam, they would understand that it's not a scary thing, it's not a threat, it's more of a peaceful thing,” he said. “It’s meant to better society.”
IU junior and MSA President Miriam Haque said the MSA has planned regular prayers throughout the holy month, including the weekly Jumu’ah, or the Friday prayers, in the Indiana Memorial Union Solarium at 2:30 p.m. and Taraweeh, extra nightly prayers during Ramadan, at the same location at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The organization and Union Board will also offer a discussion at 3 p.m. Friday after Jumu’ah about Muslim students’ experience at IU, according to MSA’s beINvolved page. Zackariya said the organization is also hoping to organize a cultural iftar, the daily fast-breaking meal eaten after sundown, with IU’s cultural centers on April 30.
Haque said she is excited to celebrate Ramadan on IU campus for the first time. She said the month is a great time to connect with friends through religion.
“It’s just a great chance for all of us to be together,” she said. “It's just a great opportunity for us to not only build on our religion but also build on our relationships with our friends.”
Zubia Sohail, Pakistani Student Association co-president, said she had been to Pakistan during one Ramadan before the pandemic, and the massive, loud celebrations impressed her. She said she feels the Pakistani international students on campus might be missing home during this Ramadan.
“I'm sure the international students kind of feel, they might feel a little homesick, because it's just quieter here,” she said.
The severity of the pandemic forced Sohail’s family to keep its circle small during last year’s Ramadan. However, she said the spirit of Ramadan was not lost.
“It was really nice to be with my family in that time, even if we weren't able to go to the mosque as often, didn't see our friends and everything,” she said. “You know, you have to give up things for the greater good.”