Faith renewed, Muslim students return to regular student life

October 7, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

After a month of fasting during Ramadan, Muslim students at Kwantlen are returning to regular university student life and diet, refreshed and purified for the coming year.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, started at the beginning of September, just in time for the fall semester.

“Its like a renewal of your faith and a time of self-purification over the span of a month,” said 21-year-old Kareem Elmassry, KSA’s Richmond campus council director. “You go through this one month period of fasting, extra prayers and abstaining from sin and at the end of the month you’ve kind of refilled your faith. It’s like renewing your soul.”

On a typical day during Ramadan, a Muslim student would get up before dawn to pray and eat, then headed to school as normal. Throughout the day they would pray five times and abstain from any food or drink. As dusk approached, they would the head to the mosque where they would then break their fast, with a fig, when the sun went down, then eat a normal meal and head to bed.

During Ramadan, it’s more than abstaining from food and drink – smoking, drinking alcohol, having sex and all other sins are prohibited during daylight hours, more specifically one to two hours before sunrise until sunset.

Rituals are important in the Muslim faith, and Ramadan is a training ritual, one in which the key word is abstinence. Another requirement is prayer five times a day, one of the five pillars of Islam.

“It’s a time when we can feel what it’s like to be hungry, and to understand that no everyone has the privilege of food and water everyday,” said Inam Qureshi, a 20-year-old Kwantlen business student. “You have to understand that Ramadan is about building up discipline and it’s a time to be thankful.”

The five pillars of Islam are: that there is one God; prayer; charity (all Muslims are asked to donate 2.5 per cent of their annual income to charity if they can afford it); fasting, especially during the month of Ramadan; and pilgrimage to Mecca. The first two pillars are compulsory; the others are optional but recommended.

There are exceptions during Ramadan. If you’re sick, traveling, menstruating or in another situation that prevents you from being able to fast, you don’t fast during Ramadan. You are, however, required to make up the month, weeks or days missed at some point before the next year’s celebration of Ramadan.

“I broke my fast for six days this past month while I was sick, but I’ll be making it up soon,” said Elmassry.

“It’s a little painful sometimes when someone is sitting next to you eating a burger, but you get used to it.

“It’s hard, for sure. I’ve been doing it for 10 years, so I’m used to it but I can understand how it can impair some student’s performance, but with practice you get used to it. It’s meant to be a time where all of your good deeds count for more, we can build up some credit in case we screw up later on.”

For most Muslims, the combination of fasting and studying present a few challenges.

“I have an exam on Eid, the final day of Ramadan, which will be a little difficult, but after fasting for eight years, I am used to it by now,” said Saima Iqbal, a 21-year-old Marketing student at Kwantlen’s Surrey campus.

Panteli Tritcher, chair of applied communications and teacher at Kwantlen Surrey’s campus, said “It’s funny because I hadn’t noticed a change in my students whatsoever. I never do. They seem to know how to get through each day as normal during this time.”
By the time students enter into university, they’ve normally been fasting for a number of years, and have practiced so many times that their bodies don’t show reaction.

In Islam, God is thought to be full of knowledge and therefore students are expected to be the same.

“Studying is a part of life that builds character and discipline, the essence of Ramadan,” said Atiq Rahman, a member of the B.C. Muslim Association. “Ramadan is about building up that said character, a relationship with God and bringing God’s attributes and qualities into your life.”

“At the end of the day we are so thankful for our bounties from God,” Rahman.