By Noor Saleh | Guest Contributor
Saturday marked the beginning of the Muslim holy month of fasting, Ramadan (ra-mah-dhan), during which Muslims across the world do not eat or drink anything from daylight till sunset for 30 days. Along with abstaining from food and water, Muslims increase their community service, donations to charity and recitation of their holy book, the Quran. At the end of the month, they hope to strengthen their personal connection with God. Ramadan is usually filled with nightly prayers, elaborate home meals and community gatherings that encourage hosting and serving others, but Ramadan at Baylor looks different for Muslim students.
Being away from family during any holiday is difficult, but a monthlong celebration that requires physical and emotional work carries an extra degree of difficulty. For students, adapting to a new sleep schedule with all their homework, work and studying is difficult, but for students living in dorms, that in itself carries its own unique set of challenges. These challenges are combined with attending a university that may underscore feelings of loneliness, alienation and abandonment for religious minority students. Leaders, faculty and students alike can help Muslim students during this month of reflection and religious importance.
For community leaders, it’s important to reach out to your Muslim residents to check in or even wish them a happy Ramadan — you can say, “Happy Ramadan” or “Ramadan Mubarak (moo-ba-ruk).” This simple gesture can help residents feel less isolated and more accepted during times when feelings of loneliness can be more apparent.
Professors can also wish students a happy Ramadan while asking how they can best support them during this time. Students are not looking to shirk responsibility or skip class, but during the first few days, there is an adjustment period that may entail headaches and fatigue.
As students, we can check in with our Muslim friends by scheduling a group dinner after sunset and offering Muslim students community so that they do not have to eat alone. An important hallmark of this year’s Ramadan is that for the first time, 1845 at Memorial will be offering early morning meals for students through to-go snack boxes that are available during evening hours Monday through Friday. CLs can further help their residents by alerting them to this new service.
Many may read this and argue that Muslim students knew what they were getting into. They knew what university they were applying to, and they knew what to expect. To them I say, you are right. Muslim students knew they were going to go to an unapologetically Christian university, but they also knew what it means to be Christian. They knew the values of Jesus, which encourage others to love as He loved, and they knew Jesus’ encouragement to be a good neighbor. It was this knowledge with which they made their decision. Their decision to attend Baylor University should not come at the cost of their religious identity.
What I, as a Muslim student, know now is that something beautiful happens when our differences converge. Through difficulties and challenges, opportunities emerge to learn from one another. From my Christian siblings, I learn what it means to be a good neighbor; through your courage and questions full of wonder, I’ve learned to approach the world with genuine curiosity, wondering about how each person embodies the values taught to us by the words of the Lord. For me, I hope that my Christian siblings continue to ask questions so that we can extend the grace and radical love we are taught.