Ramadan: Muslim Students’ Experience Observing Holy Month on Campus

Student eats at Paresky Commons during Ramadan.

During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslim students on campus have found ways to take part in fasting and come together for the holiday, overcoming the extra challenge of observing while being a small population on campus. The Holy Month of Ramadan is a month devoted to praying, fasting from sunrise to sunset, reflection, and giving back to the community observed by Muslims worldwide.

Zainab Alaradi ’24 discussed the importance of informing people about the practices and values of Ramadan, especially as many students may be unaware of this religious observance. Alaradi also mentioned how being away from her family makes the Holy Month difficult, as being together was a huge part of her Ramadan back home. 

“Ramadan has always been a special time of the year for me and my family. What people here don’t know about Ramadan is that it’s more than just fasting. It’s more about connecting with the people around you and your family, giving to other people, it’s a time for you to be and do better, 30 days to recharge. Being away from my family has been really hard, I think lots of people [don’t] know enough about Ramadan in school, and so it’s hard trying to explain over and over again, what it means, how important it is,” said Alaradi.

Alaradi continued by speaking on the hours of Paresky Commons and how they are impacting students fasting for Ramadan, with the doors being closed during suhoor, the pre-sunrise meal, and iftar, the post-sunset meal. Alaradi suggested, after talking with other Muslim students, that the doors of Paresky could remain open just for students fasting so that they could break their fast together, as a community. 

“We suggested just having [Paresky] open for one more hour, just for us to be able to go there and grab food, to sit down and have that food without feeling rushed. We even agreed that even if the staff is not there, we’re gonna clean after ourselves, we’re gonna be responsible. It’s just so hard going through that alone. I did break my fast a couple of times in my dorm and it’s just not the same if you’re not with other people,” said Alaradi. 

Similarly, Dilnawa Kizghin ’25 has spoken about how hard it is to fast while also working in a high work-load environment and not being able to be excused from sports by the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center. Looking forward, Kizghin hopes that Andover can rectify these shortcomings to better support their Muslim community on campus.

“I think [Andover] could be doing a lot more, especially because it’s a really rough month when it’s combined with the high-demand curriculum here… Not eating just takes away all of your energy and it’s so hard. The hours of [Paresky] are too short and really inconvenient so [we] can’t even get dinner from [there]. Also sports and Sykes need to be a lot more understanding, it’s just not really taken that seriously, especially because the Muslim population here is super small,” said Kizghin. 

Correspondingly, Sakina Cotton ’24 commented on the possibility of spreading more awareness about the Holy Month by having information sessions and celebrating bigger holidays, such as Eid. 

“Suhaila [Cotton ’24] and I have shared [Ramadan] with some of our friends, teaching a few people who are willing, but there definitely haven’t been a lot of  info sessions about it other than, surface level, ‘Hey, guys, Muslims here are observing.’ We’re growing and more people will get admitted but I definitely think that [spreading awareness] is also [Andover’s] job to explain that to the greater community. In a perfect world, I think it’d be nice if every week [we could] have big celebrations, especially during Eid,” said Cotton. 

Similarly, Sami Tokat ’26 discussed the hours of Paresky, reflecting on how the current system requires Muslim students to accommodate Andover rather than the other way around. Tokat also spoke on the legacy he hopes to leave for the next generation of Muslims at Andover, hoping that he can instill change so that it is easier for them to observe.

“This year the sunset fell around 7:15 [p.m.]. I don’t know how much of a difference it would have made for the Paresky staff, for them to stay five to ten minutes extra for us to eat in time. I think that them not doing something like that and having us sort of fit into their system rather than them opening their arms to us is something that can definitely be looked at. We can ask, ‘What steps we can take?’ so that by the time we graduate, we leave the celebration of Ramadan to the next generation of Muslim students at Andover [and make] it easier for them,” said Tokat.