Faiyad Ahmad ’10 Makes Sacrifices to Actively Practice Religion

If it seemed that Faiyad Ahmad was a bit thirsty during his first All-School Meeting speech earlier this year, it was for good reason. Ahmad was in the midst of observing the Islamic holiday, Ramadan, which requires that he fast while the sun is up for a month-long period. “I was thirsty as heck,” he said. During Ramadan, Ahmad, and other practicing Muslims, must cope with hunger, thirst and fatigue. Ahmad said that some nights he went to bed at 2 or 3 a.m. before having to wake again at 4:30 a.m. to eat before sunrise. After eating, he would pray before returning to sleep before school. “The Den offered free meals for Islamic students during Ramadan to break fast after Commons closed,” said Ahmad. Ahmad said hunger serves as a reminder of why he fasts and invokes a feeling a empathy in him. Ahmad said keeping up with his five daily prayers is also difficult. Ahmad is a day student, and typically keeps up with his prayers when he is at home, but often misses his prayers during the school day. “It should be more of an effort on my part,” he said. “I know kids are able to do it.” “At a place like Andover it’s always tough, but it’s possible,” he added. When he does pray on campus, Ahmad goes to a room designated for Islamic prayer located on the second floor of the library. Ahmad said he is normally joined by a handful of other students. A Jumu’ah replaces the midday prayers on Friday and consists of a short sermon given by the imam followed by a prayer. “People are generally encouraged to go to the mosque during Jumu’ah,” said Ahmad. There is no Jumu’ah service offered by the school, but during Ahmad’s Junior year, Hasan Siddiqi ’07 would deliver a two-minute sermon after classes. “Then we would rush off to sports,” Ahmad said. Ahmad practices his faith with several members of the Islamic community at Phillips Academy, but is not a major participant in Muslim Student Union, which he said is an organization designed to spark discussion rather than act as a prayer group. Ahmad is currently the only student on campus who can properly perform the Islamic call to prayer. Like other prayers in the Koran, Ahmad said the call to prayer can be performed either melodiously or monotonously, depending on the person. “It’s an interesting combination of music and religion,” he said. Ahmad said he started performing the call to prayer his Junior year, and was one of the few students who formally learned the words and technique. The call to prayer is meant to bring people to a large group prayer in place of minarets, but is not necessary at Phillips Academy. Instead, Ahmad has performed the call to prayer at various interfaith religious services.