By Maria Popescu
– Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and the holiest month of the year. This year, Ramadan takes place from May 6 to June 4, which also marks the end of the 16-week period for AUC students. During Ramadan, next to fasting from food and drinks from pre-dawn to sunset, Muslims also focus on doing good and avoid doing wrong. At AUC, this period is usually filled with capstones, deadlines, and long nights spent working on assignments. However, Muslim students need to focus on both school and Ramadan.
According to Nesrine Mosleh, a first-year Social Science major, this is a month of self-reflection and of spiritual improvement. Muslims pray five times throughout the day during Ramadan, starting early in the morning at around 3:30 and finishing at around 23:30 or 00:00. Next to praying, they only eat once before dawn (this meal is called sohour) and when breaking fast at the end of the day (this meal is called iftar).
Times for praying and fasting differ depending on the country people live in, but if fasting time is longer than a certain number of hours, Muslims can choose to follow the time of the country they live in, the one of the closest Muslim country or the time of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Mosleh is Dutch and chose to follow the Dutch mosque’s prayer schedule and fasts from 3:45 until 22:00 while Nada Elbohi, a second-year Social Science major from Egypt, sticks with the Saudi Arabian time and fasts from 3:00 until 18:00.
Mosleh said that she has not found it that difficult to balance Ramadan and school this year. She considers herself lucky as her final weeks have not been that busy with assignments – she knows from previous years how mentally draining it can be. Having to study and take exams while also fasting adds an additional layer to the overall stress of student life.
For Elbohi, the first week of Ramadan was quite hard as she had more assignments and classes than she has now. “I skipped some classes in the beginning of Ramadan as I didn’t have the energy to wake up for my 9 [o’clock] class,” she said. “In the beginning it was quite hard as I was having headaches throughout the day.” In terms of assignments, Elbohi asked for extensions on some of her papers as her schedule was flipped because of eating and praying times. For one class she was granted the extension, but she believes it was not due to Ramadan but because other classmates had requested extensions. For another course, the teacher has a policy of not giving individual extensions unless multiple students make requests and so, explaining her situation concerning Ramandan did not guarantee Elbohi the extra time she needed to complete the assignment.
Dr. Jonathan Gill, a Humanities teacher at AUC, said that whether or not a student should get an extension or be allowed to be late to class due to fasting times comes at the discretion of each teacher. “In terms of religions, you either respect all of them or not at all,” he said. According to him, it would be impossible for the school to make accommodations for all religions in terms of free days. However, he countered this idea by saying that AUC is a tolerant, open and lenient community. Since the religious community is quite small, it should not be too hard for teachers to accept individual requests, especially if the students still meet their learning objectives, he concluded.
Mosleh said that for her, fasting is not the most difficult part, but not having people around for iftar or sohour can be quite a struggle. Ramadan is a time to be around your community and at AUC that community is smaller than she expected. There are around twenty Muslim students and not all of them are practicing. She said that sometimes they have iftar together, but after that, it is quite hard to meet for sohour at 3:00. “In the dorms, it’s hard to wake up in the middle of the night, especially if you are alone,” said Mosleh. “Breaking fast with your family is better as you have support.”
According to Elbohi, there is in general some misinformation surrounding Ramadan – “[It] is not as hard as it sounds,” she says. Ramadan is also not only about praying and fasting, says Mosleh. It is rather a time for celebration, best spent with your family and community.
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.