Spiritual Life – Ramadan encourages self-restraint

While most students have simply been trying to get back into the swing of going to classes, waking up early and reading textbooks again, there’s a group of students trying to do all that while not eating or drinking during the day.

Ramadan, a month-long Islamic celebration in which participants refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset, began Aug. 22 and ended Sept. 16. It takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It was during this time that the Qur’an, the main Islamic scripture, was revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

On Sept. 11, resident assistants from Stanford Residential College hosted an informational session on Ramadan, which featured a presentation by Mikal Rasheed, a graduate student at the University of Miami and a member of the Muslim Students of the University of Miami.

“The goal of fasting is to develop self-restraint,” Rasheed said. “It combines the love of God with the fear of God.”

While everyone in the Muslim faith is supposed to fast, there are some exceptions. The elderly, young children, nursing mothers and chronically ill are exempt from fasting.

“I think fasting teaches you a lot about yourself,” Rahseed said.

Besides explaining some of the details of Ramadan, Rahseed spent time discussing the Islamic faith.

He explained that Muslims have five daily prayers during which they pray to the direction of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Muhammad, the last messenger in Islam, declared Mecca the holiest city for Islam. Muslims are also supposed to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during their life.

After the presentation, and after sunset, students were able to taste some authentic ethnic food, catered by the Daily Bread and House of India. Dishes included vegetable fritters, chicken tikka, vegetable korma, falafel and hummus.

“I love Middle Eastern food,” Sarah Miller, a freshman, said. “I thought this event sounded cool. You learn about various religions in history class, but never in detail.”

The resident assistants who planned the event wanted to allow students the chance to learn more about something they may not know much about.

“We live in such a diverse community here at UM that it is essential to be as informed as possible about other cultures,” Irene Daboin, a senior, said. “Particularly with a humbling and spiritually developing experience like Ramadan there is a lot to learn, not only about others and their cultures, but also about ourselves.”