A closer look at Ramadan at Whitman

Nazaaha Penick, News Reporter

During the holy month of Ramadan, many students and faculty from Whitman’s Muslim community spend the month reconnecting with God. Ramadan is a month-long period of fasting, prayer and reflection, and it holds great spiritual and cultural significance for Muslims worldwide. 

The observance of Ramadan dates back to the early days of Islam and serves as a time for heightened devotion, charity and community building. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan. The fast is considered a way to purify the body and soul, increase spiritual discipline and gain a deeper understanding of the struggles of those who are less fortunate.

Through the observance of Ramadan, Muslims strive to deepen their faith, increase their compassion and generosity and build stronger relationships with their families and communities.

Osama Abdelhamid Ali Elhas, a first-year and international Muslim student from Sudan, discussed the significance of Ramadan in Islam. He emphasized that fasting during Ramadan is a fundamental aspect of the faith as part of the five main pillars of Islam. The five main pillars of Islam are considered the foundation of the religion and are essential to the practice of Islam. They serve as a guide for living a religiously fulfilled life.

In Islam, it’s one of the five pillars, so it’s pretty important. It’s a very special month for the Muslim community,” Ali Elhas said. “It’s a month where everyone comes together and remembers and reconnects with your religion and faith.”

Associate Professor of Religion Lauren Osborne described how the modern and historical importance of the month has evolved over time.

“Historically, [Ramadan] is a very long-standing practice. The practice of fasting during Ramadan is something that you can find described in the Quran. It’s a practice that’s been done in Islam since the very beginnings of the tradition,” Osborne said. “I think, in the modern period, Ramadan has become a really special time, especially for Muslims to see what other Muslims are doing across the globe.”

Whitman’s Interfaith Chaplain Adam Kirtley discussed how Muslim students are being supported throughout Ramadan. 

Muslim students and faculty typically work together well to plan ways to accommodate student needs during this time. A common example would be to allow tests to be taken earlier in the day when students have recently eaten their morning meal,” Kirtley said. 

Whitman’s Bon Appetit provides food accommodations for fasting students, supplying halal food for both Suhoor and Iftar. Suhoor is a meal eaten before dawn to provide energy for the day’s fast, and Iftar is the meal eaten after sunset to break the fast. Halal food refers to any food or beverage that is prepared and consumed according to Islamic dietary laws.

Bon Appetit Culinary Director Jon Sodini explains how the food arrangement started and how it has continued to evolve over the past three years. He accredits members of the Muslim Student Association for the organization of the program and continues correspondence with them daily.

“There are some students that are adhering to Ramadan, and of course, they want to do the fast. Because of our hours, there are a lot of times sundown doesn’t start till very late. They reached out to see if we would be willing to partner up and help them with this, and of course, if you know me, I don’t like saying no,” Sodini said.

Sodini has had a great experience working with Muslim students for Ramadan. Sodini recognized the great work from Mohammed “Franko” Omair and Abedalrahman “Abed” Jomaa; these students have been heading the organization of accommodations for fellow Muslim students this year. 

 “It was a really great experience working with them. Every year, it just got more exciting, easier and fun. Usually, there’s a head student. This year it’s Franko and Abed, and they’re wonderful young men,” Sodini said. “They organize it for the students who are observing.” 

Ali Elhas reminisces about his experiences of Ramadan back in Sudan. He explains that the month is a time for community and coming together. 

“Back home, when you know that Ramadan is coming, you will start smelling food and drinks in the air that is different,” Ali Elhas said. “The days start getting later; instead of everyone waking up at 8 a.m., you’ll wake around 12 p.m. You’ll be up late spending time with family and friends.”

Ali Elhas also reminds other non-Muslim peers to be patient and respectful of their Muslim friends during this time. 

“Be more understanding that a Muslim friend is not as happy to see you that day or does not greet you with a smile because fasting can be hard.”

Professor Osborne gives similar advice to non-Muslim peers.

“To anyone interacting with Muslim students or colleagues, try to be patient if they’re not there when you expect them to be there or if they seem a little bit out of it. They might be a little bit preoccupied with the month, and that’s okay,” Osborne said. 

The month of Ramadan will end on April 21 with a big feast called Eid al-Fitr.