International Friday: Saad Ahsan’21 shares his experience observing Ramadan
This week we sat down (virtually) with Saad Ahsan’21 to learn about the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is practiced by over 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide and is a very special time for all who practice. The month of Ramadan is a time to come together and practice mindfulness, patience, and generosity, and to focus on relationships and faith. Healthy adults who observe Ramadan fasting during the day, abstaining completely from all food and drink, including water, from sunrise to sunset. This year, Ramadan began at sunrise on April 12th, 2021 and ended at sunset on May 12th, 2021. This interview took place on Monday, May 10th towards the very end of Ramadan.
OIE: Hi Saad, thank you so much for meeting with me! For those who don’t know, could you tell us a little bit more about your involvement on campus?
SA: Hi, thanks for reaching out to me. Throughout my time at Beloit College, I have been involved with Beloit Student Government (Co-President), International Club (President), Sustained Dialogue, and I have been a Residential Assistant as well as a Student representative on the Board of Trustees.
OIE: Wow, awesome. You keep a very busy schedule! How has Ramadan looked different so far for you this year?
SA: One of the major challenges has been adapting my schedule. During my first three years at Beloit, Ramadan took place during the summer. Having Ramadan occur during a Beloit semester has meant changing my schedule so that I can eat Suhoor, the light meal eaten just before sunrise, at around 4:00am. Then I don’t eat again until sunset. In between classes and sleep, and trying to be productive, Ramadan this year has definitely been very different! Thankfully, my professors have been very accommodating.
OIE: That’s good to hear! Although we’re almost at the end of Ramadan, I wanted to ask: do you usually do anything before Ramadan to prepare?
SA: Yeah, I do tend get food ready, but nothing too involved.
OIE: That makes sense! Can you tell me what Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, looks like for you?
SA: For Suhoor, I like to have water and something filling, but not too heavy. Oats, yogurt, things like that. I eat Suhoor with my roommate, who is also Muslim. We really enjoy the view of the sunrise on the river from our dorm during Suhoor!
OIE: Nice! The Rock river is so beautiful in the mornings, that sounds like a really peaceful way to start your day during Ramadan in Beloit. Do you have a sense for how other Muslim Beloiters are observing Ramadan?
Although Beloit College is small, it’s very multicultural, so there have been many opportunities for me to connect with people. The best example of connecting with other Muslim Beloiters is Friday prayer. Prior to the pandemic, we got together in the Spirituality Room in Pearson’s with Bill Conover, the former Director of Spiritual Life – I got to know a lot of other people through that! Overall, because is such a tight knit community has been, its been easy to connecting to people.SA:
OIE: That’s wonderful! I also love that about Beloit, and I’m glad you’ve connected with so many people here! What does Ramadan usually look like for you?
SA: In Pakistan I am with my family during Ramadan. Ramadan is so different when I’m home and not in school, because I have fewer responsibilities, and generally, I also have fewer things to do as compared to when I’m in college. Ramadan at home focused on sharing Sohoor and Iftar with family, focusing on daily life, and being active at night between roughly 8:00pm and 4:00am. Plus, in Pakistan, when Ramadan takes place during the school year, it is very different because everyone back home fasts during Ramadan.
OIE: It must be very special to practice Ramadan with your family. What are your other favorite parts of Ramadan?
SA: My favorite part is probably getting into the essence of Ramadan: giving your best, being mindful and extra cautious of your impact on others, relationships, etc. Also, testing my own intuition and self-control throughout the month.
OIE: That’s wonderful, Saad. I hope that Ramadan 2021 has had all of that and more for you! Are you excited for Eid?
SA: Yes, yes!
OIE: It’s so soon! Do you have any special plans for Eid this year?
SA: In Beloit, I like to go to a mosque in Rockford, but we’re not yet sure if there will be outside services. We’re looking into it. This year, I know I’m definitely going to order lots of food and celebrate (safely) with friends!
OIE: Excellent, that sounds like it will be fun! It’s so cool that you’ve been able to connect to Muslim folks in the greater Beloit area in past years, and hopefully you will be able to get to the Rockford mosque. How do you celebrate Eid at home in Lahore?
SA: Back home, Eid usually involves lots of getting together with family, and lots of sweets! Usually, we’ll go to morning prayer, then come back to meet with friends and relatives. Because Eid al-Fitr is celebrated for three days, we have large dinner gatherings together with friends, family, and extended relatives. One of my favorite Eid foods is Kheer, which is made from rice, sweetened milk, and other things…I really like that. And of course Biryani! Also, it’s common for people to dress up nicely. In South Asia, the traditional clothes that we wear at Eid are called Shalwar kameez.
OIE: That’s so special, thank you for sharing with us! I’ve really enjoyed this conversation.
SA: Thanks you, too, Eva!