On Tuesday December 4th at sundown, 80 students gathered in the Meredith Room in Spangler for an Iftar-the meal that marks the end of a day of fasting. Organized by the Middle East and North Africa Club (MENA), the Iftar was designed to educate the HBS community about the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and also share a sumptuous buffet of hummus, falafel, grape leaves, tabouli, and other Middle Eastern specialties.
The Iftar began with a welcome by Nadia Bishai (OE), the President of MENA, which was then followed by a brief presentation on the significance of fasting and the month of Ramadan by Faheen Allibhoy (NC). Amira El-Adawi (NG) then explained the adaan-the Muslim call to prayer-and played it to mark sunset. For the next hour and half, HBS students took time from their busy afternoons to share the good food and spirit of Ramadan with the Muslim students on campus.
We would therefore like to take this chance to share some of the points that were outlined in the Iftar in a bit more detail.
What is Ramadan?
The Islamic or Hijri calendar follows the lunar cycle with Ramadan being the 9th of the 12 months. With an eleven-day difference from the Gregorian Calendar, the exact timing of Ramadan during the year varies. Astronomical calculations are used to detect the new moon, yet it is ultimately determined through visual sighting.
What is the Significance of Ramadan?
The significance of this month comes from the fact that it is the month when the angel Gabriel relayed the verses of the Quran from God to the prophet Mohammad. The exact date has never been identified, but believed to be on one of the last 10 days of this month, which Muslims call Lailat el-Qadr.
Why/How do Muslims fast in Ramadan?
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars (must do’s) of Islam. It entails abstaining from food, drink, and smoking from dusk till dawn. Muslims should throughout the month refrain from all sins and intensify their praying. The significance of fasting is two fold: to show self-restraint and to empathize with the poor. The two meals of the day become Iftar or breakfast right after sunset and sohour, which occurs anytime before sunrise based on personal preference.
Is Ramadan celebrated the same everywhere?
Celebrations of Ramadan are very different in different parts of the world. In Egypt, Ramadan feels like 30 days of Christmas, with decorated streets and a variety of festive events happening every night.
It is generally marked with social gatherings where families and friends gather at sundown, for Iftar, to mark the end of each day of fasting, which is traditionally started by eating dates.