Community members celebrate Ramadan in Muslim-cultural Students Association event


Sama Ben Amer/The Daily Northwestern

Muslims and non-Muslims alike gathered to break their fasts and enjoy iftar, a nightly meal, together.

Sama Ben Amer, Reporter

Excited chatter and laughter filled the Parkes ballroom walls as over 300 people –– Muslims and non-Muslims alike –– gathered Monday night to break their fasts together and share a meal. 

The evening of April 1 marked the start of Ramadan, the holy month observed by Muslims every year. Over the course of 30 days, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and commit to avoiding worldly impulses to focus on reinforcing their faith and spirituality. 

For Muslims at Northwestern, the month is also a celebration of community after two years of a pandemic impeding the communal aspect of Ramadan. The Muslim-cultural Students Association wanted to bring back in-person celebrations in a grand way, according to Associated Student Government senator and Weinberg freshman Mustafa Ismail. 

“I wanted to make sure that this event was as grand as it possibly could be,” Ismail said. “If we were able to do it as best as we could, then it would put some prestige factor for this event, so that people would look forward to (it) every year in the same way that they look forward to Dillo Day and other events.” 

Ismail opened the event with a call to prayer, after which McSA executive board members delivered remarks. Following the evening prayer, long lines formed behind the catered iftar, the nightly meal that comes after a day of fasting. The spread included rice, kebabs and pita bread. 

What was initially thought to be a 150- to 200-person event ended up with nearly double the turnout, Ismail said. 

McSA Public Relations Chair and McCormick freshman Omar Sharaf said he was surprised by the number of non-Muslims in attendance.

“I’d say the non-Muslims outnumbered us, and… (it) genuinely seemed like they wanted to learn,” Sharaf said.

Weinberg first-year Miracle Burt was one of the non-Muslims in attendance. 

Considering converting to Islam, she said that she came to experience Islam in practice first-hand.

“I’m thinking about converting, which has been really hard just because the exposure in Western culture is not there,” Burt said. “Being exposed about a year ago to Islam, I really enjoyed learning more about it and kind of led me on a journey to learn more about it.”

Associate University Chaplain Tahera Ahmad said Ramadan further unites the Muslim community at NU, as more students who may not normally attend McSA events tend to come out for Ramadan-related traditions.

“Ramadan is a time that people will show up, they come out of wherever they’ve been, and so that’s special,” Ahmad said. “People recognize this time as a time for community, they recognize this time for their own spiritual development.”

Throughout the month of Ramadan, NU dining services provide iftars for all students, regardless of meal plan, at Foster-Walker Complex dining hall every night. McSA will also host weekly community iftars, nightly taraweeh prayers and an Eid banquet to celebrate the end of Ramadan. 

Ismail said while he was skeptical about experiencing Ramadan away from home for the first time, the iftar provided a sense of community.

“There’s a lot of things that I didn’t expect I would enjoy here at Northwestern but fortunately I am grateful that I will be able to — things like taraweeh, things like suhoor (early morning meals),” Ismail said. “In high school, I was the only Muslim male in my grade, so this is actually a tremendous upgrade for me. I definitely feel at home here.”

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