Muslims observe Ramadan by fasting, prayer - Islamic Relief USA

Helen Yim, Bruin contributor (Contact)

Daily Bruin

Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2007

While fasting during Ramadan helps Muslim students to reflect on their souls and grow closer to God, the increased religious commitments also challenge them to implement time management skills and provide opportunities to commune with each other.

Abrar Ahmed, a fifth-year study of religion student, said he reorganizes his schedule around fasting and prayer during Ramadan.

“Going to UCLA, the academic demand is very high, and the demand to worship is high, (so) we try to change our schedule to cater to both of them at the same,” Ahmed said.

But while the stress of fasting and prayer coupled with a full course load can be physically taxing, Hasan Misherghi, a fourth-year political science student, said the experience is spiritually rewarding.

“Your mind is on the reflection of God so your mind is off everything else,” Misherghi said. “I always feel more rejuvenated.

In the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims worldwide abstain from food and drink while the sun is out.

The fast is traditionally broken at sunset with the consumption of dates at a meal called iftar.

On Tuesday, the Muslim Student Association will host Fast-a-thon, an event that invites non-Muslim students to experience a day of fasting. At 6:30 p.m., the MSA will invite the students that have fasted to break their fast together at a dinner on Bruin Plaza as student speakers discuss their experiences with fasting.

Naqib Shifa, a third-year geography and environmental studies student and president of MSA, said the goal of the Fast-a-thon is to give to charity while educating students about the importance of fasting to Muslims.

Shifa said MSA plans to donate all the money raised in the Fast-a-thon to Islamic Relief, an organization that helps orphans around the world. The Fast-a-thon will be sponsored by local businesses that agreed to donate one or two dollars for every non-Muslim student that signs up to fast for the day, Shifa said.

Sara Hussain, a third-year bioengineering student and vice president of MSA, said a representative from Islamic Relief is scheduled to discuss the ways the organization provides aid to needy orphans. Ahmed said the tradition of fasting during Ramadan not only strengthened his connection with God, but also made him feel closer to other students.

“To me personally, just knowing that there are other people out there that are keeping away from food … gives me the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed said he looks forward to breaking his fast every day with other students at the iftars hosted by the MSA. The association hosts iftars on campus Mondays through Thursdays during Ramadan.Some students said devoting more time to religious duties made them better students because they are more focused and efficient with their time.

Ahmed said the challenge of making time in his schedule for fasting and additional prayers has taught him to become more self-disciplined.

“I used to watch a lot of movies, you could say I was a movie junkie, but I am more focused on academics now,” he said.

Ahmed added that he sets aside an additional two hours at night for evening prayers during Ramadan. Many students said they watch their words and motives during Ramadan, actions that often result in improved relations with family and friends.

“I try to smile more, be friendly with other people,” Hussain said.

Christina Walter, a fifth-year political science and Afro-American studies student, said she pledged to fast in the Fast-a-thon “basically in support and solidarity” for Muslim students on campus. Angelo Sandoval, a fourth-year political science student said he looks forward to the Fast-a-thon because it educates students about another culture.

“I think one of the best parts of being a student at UCLA is the ability to take part in the traditions and cultures of other people,” Sandoval said.

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