From Mornings to Nights: Ramadan at John Jay College


Courtesy of Umaima Ali

Ramadan, a time for self-reflection, came to an end on Thursday, April 20th, prompting Muslim students to reflect on their experiences while attempting to practice their faith on campus.

Muslim students’ faiths are strengthened during Ramadan by fasting, and CUNY students of the Muslim faith are no exception. 

Even while attending classes, Muslim students adhered to the religious practices and rules of Ramadan, which include fasting from sunrise to sunset. The sunrise meal is named Suhoor, which is broken with a meal named Iftar. In addition to fasting, Muslims self-cleanse by refraining from forbidden behavior, which is called haram in Arabic.

Students in the John Jay Muslim Student Association (MSA) shared their experiences on how balancing fasting and school has affected their daily lives.

Sarah Doe, a Junior and a member of the John Jay MSA, wishes to keep her last name undisclosed. She believes Ramadan helps deepen bonds between friends and family. 

“It’s easier to bond with family and friends because there’s a sense of unification, a sense of safety one feels during Ramadan,” said Doe.

Though a time to connect closer with Allah, Ramadan has its challenges, including fatigue, dehydration, and irritability from the lack of nourishment in the daytime.

Taha Taha, a freshman at John Jay, believes having a positive mindset can encourage students to continue their fast.

“You have to reassure your discipline and not let it get to your head saying, I can’t do this,” said Taha. “Once you come in with that positive mindset, nothing will oppose you.” 

Scheduling and organization play a factor in Muslim students’ abilities to simultaneously perform religious practices while also furthering their educational pursuits. 

Doha Karma, a junior member of the MSA, shared that occupying your mind with work can help overcome the challenges that accompany the initial process of fasting. 

“The first few days are always the hardest but having to busy yourself with homework or daily chores can make you forget about the food,” said Karma. 

Tamana Jabbar, a freshman member of MSA, shared that her well-managed schedule allows her to complete coursework and simultaneously balance her faith.

 “Being a college student and fasting may seem difficult to a lot of people but I see it as an escape from the 7-3 schedule I had in high school,” said Jabbar.

Along with educational pursuits, medical conditions may interfere with religious practices.

Mayar Abdelaa, a junior, explained how her faith is an outlet for strength. Despite being diabetic, she continues to fast during Ramadan.

“Because of my diabetes, studying and fasting simultaneously is hard,” said Abdelaa. “I keep pushing myself to keep going.” 

The John Jay MSA hosted an event called “Welcome Ramadan,” on March 23rd, 2023. The event is a halaqa, otherwise known as a religious gathering to study Islam and the significance of the Quran, the holy book of Muslims. The event was administered by the President of the MSA and included a trivia component. 

Amidst the celebration of Ramadan, some John Jay students believe their religion can become a focal point of hatred from others. 

Aiisha Qudusi explained being on campus for long hours meant she needed a place to pray. Prior to the recent establishment of interfaith spaces, students resorted to the Wellness Center in the New Building to engage in prayer.

Qudusi would receive “weird looks,” she claims, while she would pray in the Wellness Center.

Qudusi also explained she had to stay late on campus due to her night classes, and many of these centers would shut down when she needed them the most. 

“I was told on multiple occasions I wasn’t allowed to pray since it closed at 4 PM,” said Qudusi.

A vital component of Muslim prayer is Wudu, the ritual of washing one’s face, hands, and feet before prayer, a cleansing ritual. Qudusi expressed she felt uncomfortable practicing Wudu on campus grounds.

“Whenever I would stay late on campus I would need to freshen my Wudu, and the janitors have said ‘You are making a mess!’ or screamed at me to stop,” said Qudusi.

Although the John Jay MSA’s efforts are to establish communal bonds, their top priority is to empower Muslim students. 

Aiisha Qudusi is an active member of the MSA and has seen the MSA grow for the past 3 years. She explains how the organization helps its members.

“Aside from advocation, the MSA provides a safe space to Muslim students.”