Children run around laughing and squealing as dining services staff and student volunteers ready the final details of last Friday’s iftar dinner, marking the end of another day of fasting for Ramadan. For a second year the University’s two Muslim chaplains are working with Harvard University Dining Services and its Crimson Catering division to cater the meal, which is served after sunset during the monthlong religious celebration.
Imam Khalil Abdur-Rashid leads evening prayers as students, faculty, staff, and family begin to file in. Many grab dates and water to officially break their daylong fast. After prayers, which are held at the Student Organization Center at Hilles, everyone dives into the meal. Tonight, it’s American BBQ dishes, including beef burgers and potato salad.
“Ramadan is very much a time of community and of blessings and of sharing love and happiness and all of those good things with everybody,” said Reem Ali ’23. During Ramadan, an estimated 1.9 billion Muslims worldwide fast from sunrise to sunset as a way to purify body and mind to create a deeper connection to God and join others in community. It marks the descent of the word of God, the Quran, to the Earth and is one the central pillars of the faith.
Ali said the idea that fasting is difficult could not be further from the truth in her experience. “The whole concept is that this is something that you do together as a group to get closer to God and for it to be a spiritual experience for everyone,” the 21-year-old government concentrator said. “Community-building comes in that, and it’s so beautiful to see it all come together.”