University of Iowa

UI Muslims adjust to Ramadan

June 15th, 2016
UI junior Abdualrahman Ismail is able to eat after sunset during Ramadan at the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. During Ramadan strict fasting is observed as a way to practice reflection, discipline, and devotion.

UI junior Abdualrahman Ismail is able to eat after sunset during Ramadan at the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. During Ramadan strict fasting is observed as a way to practice reflection, discipline, and devotion. (The Daily Iowan/Lexi Brunk)

By Kendrew Panyanouvong, The Daily Iowan

While Muslims all around the world are fasting to commemorate the annual Ramadan holiday, University of Iowa Muslim students on campus this summer are adjusting to a change of lifestyle that once seemed a yearly routine for them.

“For me, it’s just being alone the whole day,” said Abdualrahman Ismail, public relations officer for the UI Muslim Student Association. “I’m usually breaking my fast alone. It’s kind of hard because the whole point of Ramadan is being with family and appreciating it with your family.”

Like Ismail, other students were finding it lonesome and difficult to fast — or abstain from food or drink — during the holiday so the UI Muslim Student Association stepped in by sponsoring dinners every Tuesday and Thursday nights.

“The entire day people are usually by themselves studying, at class, or working,” said Mohammed Ismail, president of the UI Muslim Student Association. “We want to invite these people for them to have some free food and socialize with their Muslim friends and share that bond they’re probably missing here on campus. It’s not always about the food, but the social aspect that Ramadan is all about.”

Where the ninth month of the Islamic calendar embarks the special annual holiday, Ramadan is a time where Muslims begin fasting — or abstaining from food and water — for the entire month. The holiday allows time for those who participate to focus on prayer, individual self worth, and religious devotion.

“The basics of it are that you can’t eat or drink from sunrise to sundown,” said Gada Al-Herz, UI junior and vice president of the UI Muslim Student Association. “Every day from the beginning of the month to the end of month.”

Ramadan this year began on June 5, and will end on July 5.

Al-Herz said she is also finding it more lonesome to fast in Iowa City rather than at home.

“We’re living alone on campus,” Al-Herz said. “It’s definitely a lot lonelier when you’re used to having this time for family.”

Even though breaking fast is primarily intended to spend time with family, Al-Herz said she finds it easier because of the tightly knit bond she feels with the UI Muslim community.

“I think the Muslim community in the UI is a very welcoming one,” she said. “It’s kind of like a family.”

Abdualrahman Ismail said despite the difficulties being in Iowa City brings, he’s also found it a good time to practice the meaning of Ramadan.

“At the end of the day, the whole point of Ramadan is to bring yourself closer to God, to really focus on yourself and making yourself more patient,” he said. “I think we’re learning a lot being by ourselves. We’re focused, [and] it’s fewer distractions, but I’m also going to say it’s harder.”