Students share their Ramadan experiences on, off campus

Prayer room set up for Ramadan in Poage Library. Grace Everett | Photographer

By Rachel Chiang | Reporter

In their third week of Ramadan, Muslim students on campus opened up about the holiday and their experience practicing at Baylor.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which follows the lunar cycle. This year, it started on April 1 and will run until May 1. For the duration of the month, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk, and each day usually consists of family or community gatherings for prayer.

“It’s just a time to gather, and we abstain from indulgence in food, water and any just bad habits that you want to get rid of,” Tulsa, Okla., sophomore Mikyla Khan said. “It’s just a period of devotion, fasting, charity — mostly self-accountability and reflection.”

However, Khan said there are exceptions for some people who don’t need to fast.

“You can’t fast if you’re not perfectly healthy,” Khan said. “If you have some health problems, if you’re pregnant or you’re menstruating, then you’re not required to fast.”

Khan said sometimes, it makes people feel left out if they are not fasting due to those reasons, but it is OK and totally normal.

Khan said at the end of Ramadan, they celebrate the day of Eid, which is usually two days of festivities, dinner parties and gatherings.

“The ninth month, the month of Ramadan, is when God, or Allah, gave the first chapters of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad,” Khan said. “It’s really not just like a singular day, like Christmas is a day. Ramadan is a journey. It’s an entire month to bring us all together. We’re all in this together.”

Khan said previously, she would set multiple alarms before sunrise so that she could eat to help her get through the whole day until sunset. She also said sometimes, she and her friends would go to IHOP before sunrise to eat.

Now that she lives off campus, Khan said it is easier for her to prep meals, compared to when she relied on dining halls her freshman year. Because of her fasting, she said she has been able to share her religion, and some of her friends have even decided to fast as well despite not being Muslim.

“It’s more exciting when someone who doesn’t practice Islam is fasting through the day, because they understand a little bit more about what I’m going through — why I may be a little bit more cranky during the day or a little bit tired,” Khan said.

The Woodlands junior Noor Saleh said organizations like Better Together have enabled her to share her faith and provide community for her and many others.

“Better Together has done a lot,” Saleh said. “Better Together really ensures that students on campus that are from minority religious traditions have a place to come together and share their struggles and their triumphs.”

Saleh said because she grew up in an environment that was predominantly white, it was not a culture shock for her when people had preconceived notions of her because of her hijab. She said students who may not feel the same have been able to express those concerns and find community within their religious traditions.

“[Better Together] also allows students who may feel isolated on Baylor’s campus to find a place where they are able to find people like them — you know, people who are open to learning about their worldview or their religious tradition, not in the sense of, ‘I know better than you,’ but, ‘You are my equal,’” Saleh said. “I think the No. 1 thing that we’ve kind of learned through Ramadan is the idea of not only community but sharing. So what it really is like to share our values, share our stories with those around us, it becomes more apparent during Ramadan.”

For the past year, Saleh has worked alongside professors and Baylor Dining Services to provide for students living on campus who need meals to eat before sunrise during Ramadan.

Since April 1, 1845 at Memorial has been providing snack boxes packed with various snacks, dates and protein for students to get them through the day. The boxes are available with meal swipes or for purchase from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“The food is pretty good, and it’s filling too,” Houston senior Zobia Mohsin said. “I bought my box, and it lasted me a couple days actually. It’s definitely convenient for us even if we have to pay for it. We don’t have to cook, and we don’t have to wake up early to cook. I’m not international, but I have a lot of international Muslim friends, and they really like the option of having it, because I have access to food — like I can go home to Houston and grab some — but to them this is like a blessing.”

Mohsin said having these snack boxes means a lot to her and her faith.

“I really like the fact that we are feeling included,” Mohsin said. “It’s about expanding to different communities, taking into mind their religious backgrounds, taking into consideration religious minorities. So I think it’s just a great way to increase the community and welcome everyone at Baylor and make everyone feel at home.”

Mohsin said because of the snack boxes’ unique packaging, people would sometimes notice them and ask her questions about them, and through that, she has been able to share her faith and information about Ramadan.

“Obviously, we all know coming in that it’s a Christian university,” Mohsin said. “But people of different faiths — we don’t know if we’ll be welcomed or not — but these little gestures … really make us feel like we are also at home.”