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Every year the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is observed as Ramadan. In celebration, people refrain from drinking and eating food from the time of sunrise all the way to sunset. The month is a period of reflection and improvement through which people have the opportunity to better themselves and give back to their community.

Dena Hamidi, a junior at M-A, has celebrated Ramadan since she was born. Her family observes the fast for the entire month and celebrates Eid al-Fitr on the last day of Ramadan. Although she has been celebrating Ramadan for her whole life, Hamidi only began fasting around the age of twelve. For Hamidi, the best part about Ramadan is exchanging gifts and being surrounded by family to celebrate harmony.

“The point of Ramadan is to recognize what we take for granted every day and learn to appreciate it.” explained Hamidi, “We mindlessly feed our bodies food we don’t necessarily need every day. To be able to let yourself be thirsty or hungry gives insight to those who live like that daily, with no stop to it. They don’t get to wait until sundown to be able to eat a big meal surrounded by their family. They are continuously hungry regardless of the time of day. It reminds us of the struggles that those who are less fortunate or poor are forced to face.”

Dema Hamidi next to a museum photo. Credit: Dena Hamidi.

For Hamidi personally, Ramadan represents a period of time where she can reflect on herself and the privileges she has had in life. “I can admit that I don’t remind myself every day about how blessed I am to live the life that I was granted. Ramadan helps me focus on lowering my Nafs — ego or soul — and it encourages me to give back to those who are struggling either through Zakat — charity — or at the least, by giving a helping hand.”

Hamidi’s friends and classmates have been very supportive of her celebration of Ramadan, Hamidi explained, “a few of my friends have pointed out that it’s insightful how there is a focus on removing food and water because it allows for another level of appreciation for life.”

However, she does wish that people understood the purpose behind fasting during Ramadan. “I wish people wouldn’t view fasting as the equivalent to ‘starving ourselves.’”

Said Hamidi, “Fasting is a way to detox the body and as long as those who partake in this tradition stay hydrated and eat a healthy amount of food, then there is nothing to worry about.”

Since Ramadan lasts for an entire month, the celebration falls on school days as well. “The only part of Ramadan that interferes with my school life is the fasting,” Hamidi admitted, “I can say that it’s difficult for me to get through the summer days without water, but I remind myself that people in countries who mass celebrate Ramadan go to school and work in [over 100] degree weather. Their fasting isn’t delayed because of the weather and the setting, so I figure that I can definitely refrain from breaking my fast.”

As the last day of Ramadan and the ending celebration of Eid al-Fitr draws closer, Hamidi continues to appreciate the accepting view her religion and the celebration encourages.

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