04222021_tmg_uga iftar 028.jpg

UGA students gathered at Tate Grand Hall in Athens, Georgia on Thursday, April 22, 2021 for the Muslim Student Association for an Iftar Night event. The group plans to make this an annual event. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; taylormckenziephotography.com)

The Muslim Student Association is keeping the spirit of Ramadan alive among Muslim students at the University of Georgia. 

On Thursday, about 50 people gathered at Tate Grand Hall for the MSA’s Iftar Night. UGA Muslim students who are fasting during the holy month of Ramadan arrived dressed in cultural attire ready to pray, eat and connect with brothers and sisters. 

Ramadan is the 30-day fasting period for Muslims. This year from April 12 to May 12, or when the sighting of the crescent moon is observed, Muslims will abstain from eating or drinking every day from sunrise to sunset. Muslims dedicate their time to praying five times a day while connecting with the religion and community. 

MSA president Dema Mohammad Salih said Iftar has a bigger meaning than just eating dinner after a day of fasting. 

“Usually before Ramadan we're all doing our own activities, but at this time all Muslims — brothers, sisters, families and friends — all come together and make time for this gathering while fulfilling this part of their like faith as well,” Salih said. 

At 8:11 p.m., students broke their fast with dates and water, just as Prophet Muhammad did in the Quran, the holy text of Islam. Afterwards, they prayed Maghrib, the Islamic prayer that takes place at sundown. 

Boxes filled with chicken, rice and salad filled the socially-distanced tables in Tate Grand Hall. MSA catered the dinner from Abrahim’s Parlor, and two students were able to sit at each table together. 

Salih said she’s happy MSA is connecting Muslim students during the month, especially to break their fast together during the Iftar night event. 

“Usually we're at home during Ramadan with our families, so it must be harder doing it away from home or if you don't have a lot of people to stick with it during this month,” Salih said. “So hopefully this is a way is to bring as many Muslim students as we can have together.”

Brothers Ahmed and Umer Farooq said home doesn’t feel so far when it comes to the close-knit Muslim student community at UGA. 

The brothers, who are sophomores from Waycross, attended the Thursday Iftar Night event together. 

“Celebrating Ramadan away from home was hard to adjust to. I was used to my mom waking us up to eat in the morning, but it’s better now since I hang out with my siblings and friends I’ve made here,” Ahmed said. “They make the time just as enjoyable and we can all relate to the difficulties of fasting during Iftar.”

Ahmed said he is thankful that MSA has brought Muslim students at UGA closer together and he feels a sense of “family and togetherness” this month. 

Small Ramadan event favor bags were gifted to each person, filled with Jordanian almonds, cookies and caramel drops. 

Ramadan decorations of star and moon fairy lights, candles, flowers and a backdrop that read “Ramadan Kareem” lit up Room D as students took pictures toward the end of the event. 

Additionally, paper lanterns made in preparation for Ramadan decorated the tables from MSA’s lantern-making event earlier in the month. 

MSA has had three events leading up to the holy month, including the lantern making. This included a Taraweeh prayer night on campus and a percentage night at Athens Pizza, a halal restaurant. 

Halal food refers to what is permissible for Muslims to eat by the Quran. For example, Muslims do not eat pork. 

“I haven't had to put in much work to keep the spirit of Ramadan up. It’s been easier for us because the board members and students alike are excited to like be a part of a celebration together,” Salih said.