With the start of Ramadan this month, Muslims across the campus have been fasting from dawn until sunset. Muslim Student Association President Farah El-Sharif (SFS ’09) will be fasting for the rest of the month as a way to teach patience, sacrifice and humility. This week, El-Sharif sat down with THE HOYA to talk about what it is like to be celebrating Ramadan at Georgetown.

What is the purpose of Ramadan?

The purpose of Ramadan on a personal level changes on a year-to-year basis for me but the overarching themes of what it feels like to be fasting during this month is really to just be reminded of the more important things in life, of the essentials. I feel like when you are hungry and thirsty on the physical level you’re constantly being reminded of your inner self, of remembering others who might be thirsty or hungry. When you are in a state of physical weakness, you tend to turn to a more contemplative state. It makes you not take for granted the days when you are physically stronger, so that is the starting point for me. Ramadan is remembrance and strength and spirituality, not in your physical state.

Is Ramadan something you look forward to every year?

Absolutely. It’s one of my favorite times of year. I mean, I’m originally from Jordan and I’m only here for school .. so sometimes it’s hard to be so far away from home during such a special time of year but I’ve come to realize that no matter where you are in the world, fasting gives you that common denominator. It just reminds you that you know that God is with you wherever you are in the world. Even though I can’t enjoy soup and salad over my family table with my siblings, I can still enjoy a buffet meal with my brothers and sisters here at Georgetown whom I’ve grown so close to over the years through different things through MSA and my classes and in many other venues on this dynamic campus.

Take me through a typical day for you during Ramadan.

So I would set my alarm for 5 a.m. and I would hardly get out of bed, but I would know that it’s probably the best thing to do since at that point I want to re-hydrate my body and get some nutrition to sustain me for the day to come. So 5 a.m. gives me a 20-minute window of time almost to drink some water, gets some dates, maybe a granola bar, some cereal, and then the call to prayer is when the sun rises is when people stop eating. So I do that, I pray and I go back to sleep and the next day, I go through classes like any normal Georgetown student would. I run errands and then around seven is the time around which we all have to come together [to] break our fast together, and then either go to Lauinger or go back to the Muslim Interest Living center to chill, have some dessert or go to [the] Copley multi-purpose room where we have daily nightly prayers that are very Ramadan-specific at 9:30 p.m. The dynamic of a typical Georgetown day doesn’t change, but it’s funny sitting there in a class if you have a class that is running late and you need to break your fast, you would suddenly take out a bottle of water or some dates and you start eating very randomly at 7:26 p.m. But once you get over that, the logistics of Ramadan, it really is just sustenance and a reminder.

Every year, do you set goals to achieve during Ramadan?

Yeah. Ramadan is the ultimate disciplinary time for me. A lot of people ask me, “Aren’t you fasting? Aren’t you exhausted? How do you go to your classes? How do you function?” .I tell them [it is] quite the contrary. Fasting makes me more alert, it makes me more attuned to being excellent inwardly and outwardly so as not to have the absence of food, water [and] what not as an excuse for not doing work but it also pushes me to being my very best . to just devoting my all to making sure that my mind, spirit, body are taken care of because it is such a unique time.

What do you think is the hardest part about Ramadan?

The hardest part of Ramadan, this might sound like I’m trying too hard to be too good of a Muslim, but really the hardest part is making the most out of Ramadan. A lot of people witness Ramadan and it comes and goes and they don’t even feel like it’s made a difference in their lives and I dread to be one of those people. I want to feel like Ramadan sets the tone for me for the rest of the year. I spent this month struggling to be a better me and it’s really gift and it’s only 30 days. But there really is a special air to it that can’t be felt on other occasions throughout the year. My biggest fear about Ramadan is not being able to make the most out of it, not being able to give charity as much, not being able to read the Quran as much, or be with my brothers and sisters at Georgetown as much, but at the same time feel like I am also giving the more the ritualistic aspects of Ramadan justice. So it’s just being able to balance all the opportunities we are given this month.

Do you enjoy celebrating Ramadan with the Georgetown Community?

[I enjoy it] so much. I can’t tell you how [fun] much celebrating Ramadan with the Georgetown community is. It’s very exceptional. It’s not every day that you can have a very nice dinner with all your friends Monday through Friday in one place or you can pray together, eat together [and] laugh together. This is almost like we’re lucky if we have one event every two weeks a year, let alone have one every day, and for such a good cause. And I feel that Ramadan makes the Muslim community and the Georgetown community stronger as it brings together from all creeds, races, you know, and socioeconomic backgrounds. We all come together and we break fast at the same time. We listen to the call to prayer together. There’s nothing like it and I really think it embodies the spirit of Georgetown of combining contemplation and action in the sense of men and women for others.

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