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ISSUE 119 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/4/2005

Ramadan binds community: Holy Celebration unites Muslims during fast

By Tim Rehborg
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 4, 2005

The sign on a door on the second floor of Flaten Hall requests the removal of footwear before entering, and shoes are clustered around the doorway. The door is the entrance to the St. Olaf Mosque, called Masjid Al-Ikhlaas – which means Mosque Unity – the center for Islam on campus.

Inside the simple room is a wide- open worship space. The walls are covered with posters and passagesfrom the Qu’ran (the Holy Book of Islam) written in Arabic and the floor contains a few prayer rugs.

In the corner is a small library that contains various books on Islam and current issues related to the religion. Visitors of all religious persuasions are encouraged to borrow from this library, free of charge.

The room also contains three mattresses, here as part of the celebration of Ramadan, the holy month on the Muslim calendar. Muslim students often sleep here during Ramadan, as part of the increased fellowship between these students.

"It is hard for us to come from the dorms. We depend on waking each other up so we don’t oversleep. Sleeping in the mosque helps us abstain from wasting our time on useless things," said Salah Mohamed ‘06, co-founder of MSA (Muslim Students Association). “Allah also tells us to wake up in the middle of the night to supplicate to him. He says in the Qur’an, ‘Wake up and supplicate to me, ask me and I will give you what you are asking me.’”

The month of Ramadan occurring this year from Oct. 4 until Nov. 3, marks the beginning of the revelations of the Holy Qu’ran of Allah to the Prophet Muhammad.

During this observance, Muslims fast, meet frequently for prayer, and abstain from lawful sex and impure thoughts and violence.

“This is a time for us to become closer to God, a time of purification,” Mustafa Dualeh ’06 said. "I am free to be myself, opening to my religion.”

The MSA at St. Olaf was established in 2003, and consists of about seven students. During Ramadan, they meet every Friday for prayer in the mosque, often joined by Muslim students from Carleton.

They also fast together, rising at 4:30 a.m., to begin the fast with a breakfast meal, “suhoor.” They do not eat anything during the daylight hours, and gather at the end of the day to break the fast with “iftar.”

The group gets food at their eating hours through special provisions with Bon Appétit, as well as their own cooking and food from their families.

Mohamed acts as the “Imam” a spiritual leader, for the group.

“This position is usually given to the person who has the most knowledge,” Mohamed said. “My training comes from being the son of a father who was really religious, and with all my older brothers following his footsteps and looking up to him. I went to Islamic school where I learned how to read and write, memorizing the Qur’an."

The fast, while especially difficult in the context of St. Olaf, is also a time of personal growth and development.

“I enjoy the opportunity to spend time with friends, and the chance to purify myself,” Ahmed Ali ’09 said.

The students spend a lot of time together in this month.

"For the last ten days we even sleep together; I’d say we spend about 80 percent of the day together,” Mohamed said.

The observance of Ramadan brings the local Muslim community together, a community whose members come from as far away as Kenya and Somalia or as close as the Twin Cities. It is a holy time of fasting and prayer, a time to strengthen connections with Allah and with one another.

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