For 1.5 billion people worldwide, Ramadan has just drawn to a close. With so many observing the Muslim month of fasting, charity and reflection, it’s a hugely collective phenomenon — even at the University of Minnesota.
But the experience of Ramadan is hardly monolithic. Depending on one’s personality and circumstances, the month takes on various guises. Among University students, Ramadan may be a completely different experience.
For Inari Mohammed, an environmental sciences, policy and management major, Ramadan was challenging because of the long hours at her job.
“This is the first Ramadan where I was working, and that made it … really, really hard to focus on what I wanted to do,” she said.
Working meant that Mohammed wasn’t able to spend as much time as she would have liked with her family, which is a priority for many during Ramadan. She also struggled to fit in her own prayers and personal reflections.
However, Mohammed found a silver lining in working during this month of fasting. When customers noticed that she wasn’t eating or drinking, she said they were curious about Ramadan and asked about it. Mohammed said this unexpected educational opportunity would not have happened had she not been working, and she found a lot of value in conveying the meaning of Ramadan to others.
Shajiah Amin said her Ramadan reflected her life as a stressed college student. An aspiring computer science major, Shajiah has spent the summer taking several courses on campus while trying to fit in extra hours of worship and getting sufficient sleep.
Despite the scheduling challenges, she said the confluence of her coursework and Ramadan was helpful in many ways. Ramadan’s emphasis on increasing one’s spirituality meant that she “prayed a lot harder to God” than usual, and she said it has helped her through some tough situations this summer.
Others have used the month to focus on personal development. Malak Abumayaleh, who graduated from the University with an English degree last year, found that fasting helped her recognize her own flaws.
“My ego is humbled due to the hunger,” she said. “I don’t use my energy towards anger. Rather, I save it for things worth being energized for.”
Practicing a whole month of abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours helped Malak overcome her feelings of anger or anxiety and “learn patience and serenity.”
Despite the relative similarity of their circumstances as American-Muslim students at the University, the Ramadan experiences of Inari, Shajiah and Malak illustrate the many ways people can benefit from this holy month.
Around the world, Muslims live in a diversity of cultures and circumstances, but Ramadan is a thread that holds them together. The goals of the month — to increase one’s devotion to God and gain compassion toward others — may be the same for everyone, but the plethora of ways to reach those goals means that everyone has a chance to achieve them, no matter what their schedules or responsibilities are during Ramadan.