Crescent moon brings Ramadan to LC, campus groups support students

Illustration of a bowl of dates and milk behind crescent moon
Halcyon Orvendal / The Mossy Log

Ramadan, expected to start March 23, is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. The holiday, which will be observed by numerous Lewis & Clark community members, is marked by fasting, reflection, charity and prayer. Ramadan typically lasts 30 days and is expected to end in mid-April. 

Since the Islamic calendar is determined by moon phases, Ramadan falls roughly 10 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar. Ramadan officially begins the day after a moon sighting committee in Saudi Arabia spots the new crescent moon, although some Muslims begin Ramadan off of local moon sighting committees. 

For many Muslim students, Ramadan is a time to connect more strongly with their faith and their community. This is exactly what LC’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) and The Office of Spiritual Life aim to help students do. 

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) has plans to host weekly Friday Iftar dinners, continue organizing transportation to and from a local Mosque for Friday services, Jummah prayer and is planning on hosting events for Eid. MSA is run by President Asmaa Zaidan ’24 and Vice President Isa Pasalic ’24. According to Pasalic, MSA plans to host more activities for Muslim students.

“This year we are organizing more, we’re trying to fill out Ramadan with more activities we can do,” Pasalic said. “So we’re going to have weekly Iftars, we’re also going to have special meals made for us at the Bon and Suhoor meals, we’re going to have one big Iftar, and Eid dinner too.” 

Iftar literally translates as “to break fast” and is the meal eaten at sundown, whereas, suhoor is the meal eaten before sunrise to keep one energized throughout the day. Fasting (Sawm), is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to fast during the month of Ramadan, which entails abstaining from food, drink (including water), sexual relations as well as vulgar speech and behavior from sunrise until sunset. Some Muslims even forgo music to focus on worship.

However, there are exemptions from fasting. The elderly, those who are physically or mentally incapable of fasting, those who are menstruating, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and travelers are all exempt from fasting. 

If one misses one or more fasts during Ramadan, they are expected to make them up after Ramadan has concluded. If you are unable to make up your fast after Ramadan, then you have the option to do Fidyah, which is a religious donation made in Islam when a fast is missed or broken. The donations can be food or money, and it is used to feed those in need. 

The Office of Spiritual Life, located in the lower level of Agnes Flanagan Chapel, will once again be opening its doors for students to break fast together. Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life Hilary Martin Himan said she hopes that the Meditation and Prayer Room – located in the lower level of Agnes Flanagan Chapel – could be used as a gathering space for Muslim students.

“Last year we set up a station. We move the microwave and fridge out into the foyer of The Office of Spiritual Life, and we can do that again so that if people would like to have their own mini Iftar,” Himan said.

“Students can bring their food over and warm it up in the microwave, if they’d like. There’s less traffic down here if students want to keep their food in the little fridge so that it doesn’t potentially get eaten by someone in their Residential hall,” Himan said.

Additionally, Himan, with the help of the MSA, has expanded the prayer space located in Aubrey R. Watzek Library. The prayer space is located on the second floor in the gold zone, in the A-D area of the stacks.

“For years we’ve had a small prayer space in Watzek library and we finally got a desk removed out of that area,” Himan said. “A folding screen for privacy is coming in, a multiple person prayer rug, a new holder for the Quran, and some prayer beads.”

Himan said the OSL used to receive a list of students who self-identified as Muslim, which the office would then pass onto Bon Appétit. However, Commonapp recently stopped asking students for that identification, leaving Bon Appétit and OSL operating without that information.

“We don’t have any (student) numbers. Back when we did have those numbers, we would give an estimate to Bon Appétit,” Himan said. “Oftentimes not all Muslim students — as there’s diversity in any tradition — not all Muslim students were observing Ramadan, so (Field’s Dining Hall) ended up over preparing and wanted to get a more accurate count, so that is why we have the QR code interest survey outside of the dining hall.”

Last year, Bon Appétit encouraged students to visit the dining hall before it closed at 8 p.m. to pick up their Iftar meal. Maggie’s also provided access to an Iftar meal from Monday to Friday until 9 p.m. using a meal swipe. Now that Maggie’s is closed, however, this is no longer an option. 

This year, Bon Appétit said that Muslim students can receive their evening meals as normal, since at the beginning of Ramadan, sundown will occur before the Bon closes, according to Executive Chef of Bon Appétit Michael Palmer.

“As we get closer to the end of Ramadan, sundown will be just after we close at 8pm but students will be able to either take their food with them or stay in the dining hall to eat at the end of the night,” Palmer said.

Additionally Bon Appétit will provide Suhoor meals for anystudent who signed up to receive one.

“The pre-dawn meal kit will include things chosen by students from the MSA like hard- boiled eggs, cheese, dates and other fruit, and yogurt,” Palmer said. “Students will have the option to decide how much they need to make sure that no matter how big or small their appetite is, they are taken care of.”

Ramadan is an important month for Muslims not only physically but spiritually as well, as it allows many Muslims a time for self-reflection, the ability to control worldly desires and the chance to grow closer to their loved ones and Allah. In addition, the month marks the revelation of the Islamic holy book, the Quran. In Islamic tradition, the belief is that the angel Jibril (Gabriel in English) appeared to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and revealed the first verse, “Iqra” (read), commanding the Prophet to seek knowledge.

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” – Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183

For Pasalic, Ramadan is a time to listen to — what he describes as “inside noise” — and foster a sense of self- fulfillment. “We have an issue with perfection and over-association with worldly life. We often take the noise from the outside in order to feel fulfilled,” Pasalic said. “But I think there’s also noise that comes from the inside. And once you take away the noise from the outside, only then are you able to hear the noise from the inside. Ramadan and all of these disciplines that allows you to distance yourself from worldly pleasures, whether it’s eating, drinking, whether it’s just secluding yourself for a bit, to be with yourself allows you to hear that little voice on the inside of you, that calls upon you and gives you a sense of fulfillment.”

For more information, support and resources during the month of Ramadan, email spirituallife@lclark. edu, and follow them on Instagram @lclarkspirituallife. To get involved with MSA, email And follow them on Instagram @lc.msa.

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