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Reflections:

Last week the Harbus discussed Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, and some of its business implications worldwide. This week we look closer to home and feature four students’ perspectives on Ramadan here at HBS.

Faruk Abdullah (NI)
Ramadan at HBS has been an incredible experience. My classmates have been very supportive throughout this time. It has been great to be in a community that’s interested in diversity and open to learn and share experiences. Talking about Ramadan has given me the opportunity to share a part of Islam with my friends and subsequently learn from their perspectives about their own religion. That interaction has helped me become a stronger spiritual individual.

For some reason, Ramadan has been more physically difficult this year versus others. This difficulty has actually been a blessing in disguise. It’s reminded me that Ramadan is not about being in pain and is not about suffering. It’s about using this time of fasting to get closer to your faith and to Allah (Arabic word for God). That mentality has given me strength to continue with Ramadan. It’s also helped me realize that the time I put in now not only with Ramadan but also with all my actions can enhance my spiritual growth throughout my entire life.

Mamoon Hamid (NI)
Every year General Mills and Kellogg’s must wonder why there is a spike in the consumption of cereal during a random 30-day window – which tends to move back 10 days or so every year. Well, ask a Muslim, and they’ll probably tell you that it is the Ramadan effect – Muslims getting up before sunrise every morning during the month of Ramadan to consume excessive amounts of cereal to last them through a whole day of fasting.

I for one have increased my cereal consumption about five-fold during this month. I must admit, having grown up in Germany eating Muesli five times a week as long as I can remember, puts me in the cereal addicts (I like to call it cereal connoisseur) category along with Jerry Seinfeld. I am still a big fan of the Muesli’s but having lived in the US for the last nine years has made me an even bigger fan of the “junk food cereals” like Reeses Puffs, which I happened to discover this Ramadan browsing through the cereal aisle looking for specials in Shaw’s down on Western Ave – 2 boxes for $5 wasn’t bad, but 4 boxes for $10 sounded even better. That ought to last me a whole week, hmmm?

Unlike lowering the bar for cereals that I consume every year, I use the month of Ramadan every year to raise the bar for my personal actions.

Every action, spoken word or intention involves an extra split second of thought to assess the repercussions of my actions onto others. It’s a time when I find myself being more patient, more giving and more understanding, and just in general more aware of my surroundings. It seems to go well with our HBS mantra.

This Ramadan is special because, I for the first time have been involved in a Muslim students organization, our own HBS Islamic Society. I am the social chair of the group and have been responsible for organizing weekly dinner gatherings on campus at which RCs, ECs and partners break their fast (called Iftaar). Last week the bachelors including Tarim Wasim (NB) wowed us with their Pakistani and French-Moroccan cuisine. I made basmati rice the way my mom would’ve and chocolate fudge brownies the way Betty Crocker would’ve.
As Ramadan draws to a close I look forward to living up to my slightly elevated bar (and hopefully making use of my newly acquired basic cooking and baking skills).

Majid Jafar (OB)
I look forward to the month of Ramadan every year. For me it is a time to readjust one’s perspective; to better oneself. The fasting from food and drink makes you acutely aware of your humanity and physical vulnerability. Despite all you may achieve, you are in essence a weak and mortal human being. While fasting your stress levels decrease, and you feel humble and learn to better appreciate and not take for granted your blessings. Especially in the hustle and bustle of life at HBS, it is easy to forget that for the vast majority of the world’s population, most of what concerns us here would be laughable. For many, just basic survival is the daily challenge.

It is also a very social month, after the breaking of the fast at sun-down.

Communal prayer is important, but also just spending time with family and friends and giving thanks for all your blessings. The Eid festival that marks the end of Ramadan is one of great feasting and gift-giving, and a time to come together with extended family.

Irfahn Rawji (OD)
While Ramadan is obviously a physically difficult month, it also is a very rewarding time of year for me. Similar to how many of my Jewish friends spend the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur reflecting, I find the month of Ramadan ideal to do the same.

Fasting ensures I spend a great deal of time focussed on self improvement and prayer. When I find myself hungry (as I often do!), I am reminded of God and also am reminded to spend the month focussed becoming a better person and a better Muslim. Importantly, fasting also reminds me to be thankful for how fortunate I am to have the freedom I often take for granted. The anguish I experience when the freedom to eat is taken from me (for merely a few hours) is insignificant when compared to arguably more important rights denied many people on earth.

I also find the month rewarding from the standpoint of Islam. Although I have a Muslim name, often people are unaware of my religion, and worse ignorant about Islam. Fasting during Ramadan ignites curiosity amongst friends and colleagues about my religion – a time I use to educate and clarify, and importantly speak about how we are more similar than different. We find ourselves in a time in history still fraught with ignorance and unfortunately some discrimination. I believe it is incumbent on all of us to fight both these ills. Ramadan provides me the perfect opportunity to educate and help build bridges of commonality amongst the worlds many faiths.

December 1, 2003
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