Ramadan’s return: Observant students balance work and tradition

TASTING+TRADITION.+Areen+Khan+organizes+prepared+dinners+at+the+end+of+the+Ramadan+Ramp+Up+event.+The+event%2C+which+took+place+on+April+7%2C+was+hosted+by+MSA+and+featured+student+leaders+of+the+club%2C+who+explained+the+significance+of+Ramadan+in+the+Muslim+faith+and+how+it+is+practiced.

Patrice Graham

TASTING TRADITION. Areen Khan organizes prepared dinners at the end of the Ramadan Ramp Up event. The event, which took place on April 7, was hosted by MSA and featured student leaders of the club, who explained the significance of Ramadan in the Muslim faith and how it is practiced.

Anathea Carrigan, Managing Editor

During Ramadan, junior Noori Zaki starts her morning around 5 a.m. She takes part in the first prayer of the morning, Fajr, with her family, before breaking fast. She goes to school, and abstains from food and drink until later that night, around 7. Around this time every day, she opens fast with her family, and they eat a long meal and pray together again. 

She repeats this day after day, from April 2 until May 2 to celebrate the holy month from dawn to sunset. 

Despite the additional challenges posed by fasting within the school environment, Muslim students at Lab observing Ramadan find it a rewarding way to get closer to God and their families and to form connections within the Muslim community. 

Last year, the celebration of Ramadan was limited due to restrictions resulting from the pandemic. Noori found it was harder to build community due to quarantine. 

“Last year was COVID — we were in quarantine, we couldn’t go to mosques, or we couldn’t, like, do a lot of group activities, which is what I think you do during Ramadan,” Noori said. 

However, junior Yaseen Qureshi noticed that the remote learning setting also had its advantages when observing Ramadan. 

Last year, when we were remote, observing Ramadan was much easier because I had more control over my sleep schedule and my workload,” Yaseen said. 

At school, Noori finds it hard to focus as students around her eat. 

“Within the school environment, concentrating, it’s really hard to stay focused during class because everyone around you is usually eating a snack. You can smell food on the first floor in the caf,” Noori said. “It’s really hard to concentrate when the only thing running through your mind is food.”

For a number of  years, Dr. Cynthia Jurisson, MSA Advisor, has made room C121 available for Muslim students to spend time in during lunch and other open periods. 

Being able to have our own room to talk and keep fast without looking at food has been a great help,” Yaseen said. “It shows that there is a lot of consideration from the administration and faculty for our unique experience as Muslim students.” 

The challenges they face are not only mental but also physical. Fasting leaves the students with less energy than normal. 

“I also get a little dizzy or nauseous sometimes,” Noori said. “Today during choir, she said to stand up when we had to sing. When I stood up I was swaying a lot, and it’s just really hard.”

Although Yaseen tries to fast during Ramadan, he has found it difficult to maintain while participating in his tennis season.

This year, I’m trying to fast as much as I can,” Yaseen said. “The problem with that is that Ramadan is in the middle of the boys tennis season, meaning I have to stop fasting each day I have a match, which is typically two to three days a week.” 

Noori’s teachers have been accommodating with assigning work, which has been helpful to her when trying to manage school and the responsibilities involved in Ramadan.

“My teachers are a lot more lenient, and I think all the teachers, if you talk to them, they’re a lot more lenient about the workload because they understand this is a really hard month,” Noori said. 

Yaseen has had a different experience, and finds it tough to keep up with the regular flow of homework.    

“It is incredibly challenging to manage workload while fasting, but the best I can do is to make the most of my free periods and manage my time effectively. When I’m not functioning at 100%, it makes it even more important to be mindful of the schoolwork that we have to do,” Yaseen said.  

Family dinners have always been a staple, but during Ramadan we’ve made sure to break fast together as a family. Although fasting can be tiring, it also brings us closer together.”

— Yaseen Qureshi

Because they spend more time together, Yaseen also sees Ramadan as a time to get closer to his family.

“Family dinners have always been a staple, but during Ramadan we’ve made sure to break fast together as a family. Although fasting can be tiring, it also brings us closer together,” Yaseen said. 

Despite the challenges, Noori finds celebrating Ramadan rewarding. She enjoys the community-building opportunities it provides. 

“We always have to go to the mosque and pray at nighttime. It’s like extra prayer just for the holiday, and it really brings the whole Muslim community together,” Noori said. “There’s even other students at Lab, like Hala Atassi and Maya Atassi, they go to the same Mosque as me. Now we’re making plans to go to the mosque together, whereas last year we couldn’t really do that.”

Correction: An original version of this story said the administration set up room C121 for Muslim students to spend time in during lunch.