What to know about Ramadan

Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, begins Wednesday evening, during which many Carnegie Mellon students will be fasting during daylight hours. To help spread awareness about Ramadan and highlight the students who observe it on campus, I spoke with Muslim Student Association board member Medinat Akindele to answer some commonly asked questions about Ramadan and how it can be observed in our community.

What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a month in the Islamic lunar calendar when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and focus on worship, good deeds, charity, and connection to Allah, the Islamic God. It is a time of prayer, community, and cleansing for many Muslims.

How does Ramadan work?
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from drinking, eating, consuming harmful substances, and doing things that are immoral. Two meals are eaten each day: the suhoor, which is eaten before dawn, and the iftar, which is eaten after sunset to break the daily fast. Aside from food, there is also a strong emphasis on being patient and kind to others at this time. Another important aspect of Ramadan is studying the Qur’an and engaging in group prayer in the evenings with other observing Muslims.

Who observes Ramadan? Where do they do it?
Over one billion Muslims observe Ramadan around the world. However, not everyone is required to fast during Ramadan. Those who are not physically able to fast, children, menstruating people, and those who are pregnant or nursing are exempt from fasting.

Why is Ramadan important?
Ramadan is the Islamic month when the Qur’an — the holy book in Islam — was revealed to the people. Therefore, Ramadan is observed to show gratitude and cultivate a connection with Allah. For Akindele, “Ramadan is a reset, it’s a gift from Allah to re-connect,” as well as a time of “generosity … like giving charity, cooking for others, cleaning the mosques.” The most important objective of fasting is to center Allah in Muslims’ lives, but Ramadan also fosters other important tenets such as community, healing, and altruism.

How is Ramadan observed at Carnegie Mellon?
The Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Carnegie Mellon offers multiple programs to help Muslim students observe Ramadan here. The MSA hosts a community iftar during which Carnegie Mellon students, as well as people from the general Pittsburgh community, can get together to learn about Ramadan and celebrate breaking the fast together. Also, the MSA has partnered with Chartwells to provide suhoor and iftar meals. And for those looking to worship, the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh is just a short walk from campus.

To those who celebrate, we wish you Ramadan Mubarak!