Hofstra Muslim Student Association marks Ramadan

Hofstra University sophomore Soad Hossain, right, broke fast with a friend, first-year journalism student Melinda Rolls, during a recent Ramadan Iftar organized by the Muslim Student Association. // Photo by Fatima Moien/Long Island Advocate

By Fatima Moien

Members of the Hofstra University Muslim Student Association have prayed throughout the month of Ramadan on the floors of a second-floor Axinn Library conference room while also hosting free, twice-weekly Iftar meals to balance fasting and academia.

Ramadan falls as the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Following the lunar cycle, every year the month rotates 10 days back. This year the month started March 23 and is to end this Friday, April 21. During Ramadan, Muslims are called to fast from sunrise to sunset. Muslims believe it is the month when God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad in the year 610, a little more than 1,400 years ago. Ramadan is a time of patience, reflection and empathy for the poor.

Iftar is a meal eaten after sunset during Ramadan to break the day’s fast. The MSA’s Iftar gathering on April 10 started at 7 p.m., as the sun dropped below the western horizon, and wound down around 8:30 p.m.

Soad Hossain, a sophomore computer science major, said it has been hard not having many friends on campus who understand Ramadan while having professors who do not know he is hungry or thirsty during lectures.

“Fasting isn’t something you show off,” he said. “I lost count of the days. I just keep going.”

With the recent news that the halal station in the Student Center is not zabiha halal certified, the highest standard of halal, Muslim students have been hesitant to eat on campus. All MSA Iftar meals are zabiha halal certified.

Hossain, who lives off campus on his own, said he rations his food throughout the week and opens his fast with his family on the phone or by himself.

“My faith keeps me going,” Hossain said.

Zahra Omairat, from left, co-president of Hofstra’s Middle Eastern North African Student Association, shared a laugh with the vice president and president of Hofstra’s MSA, Sidrah Nadeem and Asma Azam. // Photo by Fatima Moien/Long Island Advocate

At the April 10 event, the library conference room tables were divided for men and women. The roughly 40 students in attendance patiently waited with plates of dates before them. The prayer before the Iftar meal was quickly murmured by the day’s first bites into the sweet, sticky, dried fruits and sips of water, a traditional practice begun by the Prophet Muhammad, who is said to have opened Iftar each day with three dates and water.

Group members dropped the leftover date seeds behind and started lining up, shoulder to shoulder, with men in the front and women behind. All faced the direction of the holy site in Makkah al-Mukarramah in Saudi Arabia, more commonly known as Mecca, and began to pray.

Sharonreet Mann, a first-year Hofstra student, takes pride in having been a MSA member since high school, though Mann is not a practicing Muslim but a follower of Sikhism. “A lot of people think that Islam is oppressive toward women, and it’s really not like that,” Mann said. “They always get silent after I explain that it’s not a violent and restricting religion.”

After the prayer was said, the students slipped their shoes back on and lined up to choose from the assortment of burrito bowls that the MSA had prepared from Taco Express, a halal Mexican grill in Bellerose, Queens.

The MSA executive board, all present at the Iftar, collectively agreed that making Ramadan convenient for students practicing on and off campus is a priority in their planning and programming. Lack of available space to hold collective Iftars more than twice a week has been a challenge for the organization, but Hofstra’s Dutch Treats does offer frozen halal meals, and the MSA has partnered with local vendors to provide pre-ordered meals for the remaining days of Ramadan. Students can reserve a time and meal of choice to pick up before opening fast, or Maghrib prayer.

Hofstra’s Muslim Student Association hosts one of its twice-weekly Iftar meals during the holy month of Ramadan at Hofstra’s Axinn Library, Room 246. Muslims globally fast from from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. // Fatima Moien/Long Island Advocate

“The Iftars we host are never really this big,” said Rayhan Ahmed, a senior computer science major and MSA e-board member. “When I see everyone around me smiling, it’s all worth it.”