Ramadan connects Muslim students around the school

You hear the pestering alarm ring at the crack of dawn. The birds are hardly chirping, and the bedroom is still caliginous. Heading downstairs, you look forward to eating the first meal of the day: suhoor, and then starting your 12 hour fast.

For Muslims, this tradition is followed over the span of 30 days during the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, known as Ramadan. It is the month of compassion, charity, prayer and fasting for Muslims all over the world. Given that one of the most notable aspects of Ramadan is fasting, students who observe the holiday balance both the difficulties and positive aspects that go along with it. This year, Ramadan began on April 2.

Sophomore Zara Chaudry said that Ramadan allows her to connect with her culture and brings her family closer through breaking fast together.

“Every night when breaking fast, my mother prepares specific dishes that are important to our Pakistani culture,” Chaudry said. “We all share this one dish called ‘kheer’ which is a type of rice pudding, and we continue to use a recipe that’s been in our family for generations.”

Sophomore Zyad Baliamoune said that his family also has important traditions during iftars, the meal eaten by Muslims to break their fast during Ramadan.

“My mom always makes really nice food when we break fast. On Friday we usually go to the mosque and break our fast there with other people,” Baliamoune said.

According to Chaudry, being a student during Ramadan can be a challenge both physically and mentally.

“[My family and I] wake up at around 4 a.m. every day for suhoor. Sometimes it’s really hard to get back to sleep. When I get to school, it’s often hard to focus due to sleep deprivation and hunger,” Chaudry said.

Junior Adal Tajuddin runs track and said that celebrating Ramadan during the season can be difficult because of the restrictions on food.

“It is not fun running on the track while not being able to drink water,” Tajuddin said. “Your body gets drained and dehydrated, and you just get thirsty.”

Despite this, Chaudry says that the experiences she has had being an athlete during Ramadan have left a positive impact on her.

“Some days are easier than others, but I always try my best to keep my fast. Last year, there wasn’t a single day in Ramadan during practice that I broke my fast, so I’m proud of that and always use that as motivation,” Chaudry said.

Baliamoune said that being around those who do not celebrate Ramadan can be a challenge.

“When going out with my friends, I am not able to eat, which makes it difficult,” Baliamoune said. “People are always overemphasizing the fact that they’re drinking or eating in front of me, and say something like ‘Oh my God this water is so good.’ I feel like a lot of students [who celebrate Ramadan] know what I’m talking about.”

Chaudry said that she wishes for the school community to treat her normally and not view fasting as something to pity.

“I don’t believe that Ramadan should give me any special privileges or that people should feel bad for me,” Chaudry said. “I often get asked, ‘Is it okay if I eat in front of you?’ by a lot of people, and I don’t want them to think that or to not eat because they feel bad for me. At the end of the day, I’m still me.”

Not only does Ramadan help bring families closer together, but it also connects the greater Muslim community. For example, on Sunday, April 10, a group of Brookline families hosted their third annual Brookline Muslim Friends’ Iftar dinner and celeberation. Town and school officials were invited in an effort to promote greater understanding of what is involved in the month of Ramadan.

Chaudry and Tajuddin both said they appreciate the sense of community during Ramadan and how it helps Muslim students connect.

“I think something I enjoy about Ramadan is seeing other Muslim students I know,” Tajuddin said. “When you see them in the hall and know you’re both fasting, nothing has to be said, but you understand.”

Chaudry said that Ramadan is a meaningful and important holiday that she appreciates and looks forward to.
“Something I really enjoy about Ramadan is the aspect of purification, self-reflection and togetherness. It’s a really cleansing process, and it makes you appreciate the things you have when you don’t have them anymore,” Chaudry said. “It makes you empathize for the people that are in that position every day.”