Ramadan is a time to fast — to not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset every day. Once the sun sets, the fast is broken with an “iftar,” a community meal that brings families and friends together.
Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar each year, this year from May 27 to June 24. Ramadan is a spiritual and often familial time, but because of school, many Muslim students need to celebrate the 29- to 30-day holiday far from their homes and communities.
As the sun set on June 1, the sixth day of fasting, the UC Santa Cruz Muslim Student Association (MSA) welcomed about 70 students to Quarry Plaza to recognize the month of Ramadan with its second annual community iftar.
“Ramadan is a time where you’re supposed to be fully immersed in your community,” said MSA Treasurer Abir Rashid. “It’s really hard to fast all day and to know that there is another person who [is] going through [it] with you [is] really important.”
During Ramadan many Muslims fast, as it is one of the five pillars of Islam. Fasting is intended to bring religious followers closer to God and remind them of people who are less fortunate, and many will help feed the hungry during Ramadan. The other four pillars include prayer, charity, faith and a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The event began with a congregational prayer and continued with the iftar, meaning “break a fast” in Arabic. Students then broke the fast by consuming a date, a tradition that comes from the Prophet Muhammad. MSA then served students plates of falafel from Falafel House Santa Cruz as Muslim and non-Muslim students gathered around Quarry Plaza and ate together.
Faryal Bahaduri, a fourth-year politics major who transferred to UCSC, said she was more involved in MSA in her first year but has found it difficult to make time as she is approaching graduation. However, she felt it was important to attend the community iftar.
“Usually they say it’s better to fast in bigger groups than just being alone because that’s the blessing in it,” Bahaduri said. “If [it] wasn’t for this, […] everyone would just fast either at home or with two friends or maybe at another smaller event. […] This is just very nice, the fact that [MSA] threw it and told everyone to come in join. I love it.”
The iftar was the second of a two-part series. The first part on May 30, called Ramadan 101, invited the non-Muslim UCSC community to fast with Muslim students in a one-day “fast-a-thon” that 20 to 30 students participated in.
Swechchha Parajuli, a second-year computer science major, participated in the “fast-a-thon” because she wanted to show solidarity with her friends who are Muslim. She grew up in a small Muslim community in Nepal and through her mom’s advocacy work for South Asian people in Oakland, she helps translate for Muslim people who only speak and read in Hindi.
“Being able to fast in this country is kind of like a right that some people aren’t given because if you’re in a predominately Muslim country then there are holidays you [are] given to have time off to fast,” Parajuli said. “Here, some people can’t practice that faith because they aren’t given that acknowledgment.”
MSA hopes to continue the series to support Muslim students during Ramadan and also have Muslim and non-Muslim students gather to create stronger community.
“How I do [Ramadan] with my family is we break fast together and also have a lot of family friends come over and have a huge feast. It’s a really joyous moment,” said MSA President Shyaan Khan. “What we do now as an MSA is bring students together to try to [replicate] that community aspect.”