Each year, Muslims all over the world, including here at Dalhousie, put down their forks and drinking glasses to celebrate Ramadan.
For many Muslims Ramadan, which concluded this past Monday, is a time of fasting, reflection and, at the end, celebration. Healthy adults abstain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset, consuming their meals before dawn and after night has fallen.
Lasting from new moon to new moon, Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar. It begins about two weeks earlier each year: this year it started June 29 and ended on July 29. Next year, it begins on June 18.
While fasting is an important part of Ramadan, it is only one aspect of the month. Another is prayer: Dalhousie’s Multifaith Centre offers quiet rooms for prayer and reflection for any member of the Dalhousie community at various spots on Studley and Sexton campuses. While some choose to use those spaces, others on campus find a quiet space on their own.
“I pray five times a day,” says Zobeida Al-Zobediy, who works at Dal as part of the Human Resources team. Her family has been celebrating Ramadan.
“When it comes time to pray at Dalhousie, I just close my door and pray. It helps me feel closer to Allah. In Yemen, we’d all go to the Mosque and pray during the work day. Here, everyone prays alone. Especially in Ramadan, even people who don’t normally pray, pray during Ramadan.”
A time of empathy
Another important way of marking Ramadan is cultivating empathy for the less fortunate with emphasis put on charity.
“It’s how to feel for the poor,” says Zobeida. “Lots of people are starving, so you feel for the poor, you feel that you should be grateful for what you have. We are living a very good life: we can eat whatever we want, we can buy clothes and we should be grateful for that because some people don’t even get a piece of bread or even a glass of water. So this is the most important thing, to make my kids feel for the poor people.”
The Maritime Muslim Student Association held an Iftar dinner — the term for the evening meal that breaks the daytime fast — twice a week in the Dalhousie Student Union Building during. The Muslim Student Association is a chapter at Dalhousie that caters to the needs of Muslim students while providing an active Muslim community of students that facilitates their practice of Islam. They provide any information to Muslim and non-Muslim students wondering about any aspect of the Muslim faith, in addition to organizing events throughout the year for Muslims and non-Muslims to explore the different aspects of Islam.
Guests this year at the Iftar dinners were offered food from a long table filled with tempting dishes. The dinner is a way for Muslim students to gather and share their Ramadan experiences, rather than eat alone, and for non-Muslims to see what the dining experience during Ramadan is like.
Being part of a community
The Multifath centre at Dal has also created a space for Muslim students, along with staff and faculty. Two chaplains are dedicated to providing spiritual and personal counselling and opportunities for workshops, prayer and worship. The chaplains also attend student orientation and facilitate discussions about faith on campus. This ensures members of Dalhousie’s Muslim community have a space to express their religion — especially helpful when they can be far away from home.
When asked about the differences between celebrating Ramadan in Canada and in Kuwait, where she is from, Lama Refaei a student at Dalhousie and member of the Muslim Student Association at Dal says, “The celebrations are much different here. In Kuwait, where everyone is fasting there is a huge celebration at the end called Eid, which is like Christmas here. Money is given to kids, you buy new outfits, but everyone is celebrating, so the spirit of Ramadan is everywhere.”
“The first year in Canada was tough; it still doesn’t feel like the exact Ramadan,” she says. “It does more since I’ve been participating for more years. But then I got used to it, especially when I knew they gather in Halifax on the first day of Eid after Ramadan. There’s a big gathering for Muslims. They pray, and they give chocolates to the kids. It was great to show the kids we have Eid after Ramadan.”
Visit the Health and Wellness page to learn more about religious services at Dal for students, staff and faculty.
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