Courtesy of Nabil Rahman

Throughout Ramadan, members of Yale’s Muslim Student Association have observed the holy month with prayer and communal gatherings — and even with some heads of college. 

Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims, which lasts for about 30 days. Fasting usually begins around 5:30 a.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. It is also a month of devotion toward God as Muslims abandon the ease of sleep, water and acting with bad intentions. This year, Ramadan began on March 10 and culminated with Eid al-Fitr on April 10.

This year Muslim students experienced a portion of the month during spring break and a portion at Yale. Danish Khan ’26, the religious chair of the MSA, spoke about balancing religious commitments with his regular routine as a student.

“That is the difficulty of it as well. Everything is the same but we … have to not have food in our system. [There are] energy crashes and tiredness and you have to wake up really early in the morning.  It feels like a sacrifice — that’s where the meaning comes from. If it was easy, I don’t know if it would be as meaningful,” said Khan. 

Each night of Ramadan, there are Iftars — meals to break the fast — at Morse College, and Taraweeh, communal prayer, at Dwight Hall. Around 40-50 people come every night to pray together, according to Khan.

Undergraduate and graduate students sign up for different time slots throughout the month to help lead prayers in addition to their other commitments.

“It’s very unique for a college campus because it’s a very heavy commitment. We have undergrad students who have a full course load and extracurriculars, they’re leading startups. It’s impressive. I’m very proud of [our community] for being able to do that,” said Khan. 

Halal in dining halls

Yale is unique in that all of the beef, chicken and lamb served across the 14 residential college dining halls is halal, per Director of Muslim Life Imam Omer Bajwa. Bajwa told the News that in 2013, Yale Hospitality came to him to discuss experimenting with using halal meat as one of the base proteins in the dining hall. Before that, he described the dining situation as a “struggle” for strictly observant Muslim students, since Halal meat was not the default in the dining halls, although there were options to get Halal meat upon request

Many schools have halal stations, but at Yale, halal meat’s ubiquity has been a pull factor for prospective students. 

“I can see the evolution over time. Prefrosh will come for Bulldog Days and one of the big questions they ask is, ‘What is the halal scene on campus?’ They don’t even believe me when I tell them. I’m like ‘Well, Yale Hospitality dining services are exceptional.’ It’s always a really pleasant moment,” said Bajwa. 

Bajwa worked closely with Bob Sullivan, director of Yale Dining Operations, to develop this dining plan. Nabil Rahman ’26, communication chair of the MSA, also works with Yale Hospitality to accommodate students during Ramadan. 

Iftar across campus

Rahman also noted that this year, members of the Muslim community have been invited to the homes of various Heads of College to eat the Iftar meal.

“It’s very nice, especially when they’re the ones reaching out. I think that a lot of heads of colleges wanted to do something for the Muslim community given all that has happened this year. It’s a really nice gesture that we’re really grateful for,” said Rahman.

According to Rahman, Trumbull Head of College Fahmeed Hyder, who is Muslim, has hosted three Iftars. Pierson, Morse and Hopper heads of college have also invited students into their homes. In Silliman, students use the kitchen to prepare food every other night of Ramadan.

Hyder reflected on his unique position as the University’s only Muslim head of college.

“Since Anita and I have hosted many Iftars before Trumbull, our decision to host Iftars and Eid open house at Trumbull was quite natural. In addition, we both enjoy the community feeling of celebration over good food and company,” said Hyder.

In addition to Iftars with the heads of college, Imam Bajwa reached out to the heads of each of the cultural centers to host a joint Iftar at the Afro-American Cultural Center. The collaboration between the centers, which took place in the University’s first Intercultural Iftar on April 3, enabled the embrace of multiple identities.

“In the future, we hope to continue interacting with the Yale Muslim groups and provide what the students need; I listen and adapt to their needs,” said Timeica Bethel ’11, dean of the Afro-American Cultural Center. 

Collaboration with New Haven restaurants

Multiple restaurants in New Haven have supported Yale and New Haven’s Muslim community during this month. Burgerway provided boxes of cheeseburgers and fries as Iftar meals every day to Yale and New Haven Muslims. Muslims of the World, a local coffee shop with a mission to support the Muslim community, hosted an Iftar for Muslim Yalies to provide a time for interaction with New Haven’s Muslim community.

Havenly, a restaurant that aims to support women refugees from all over the world, hosted two Iftars for the Yale Muslim community. One of its Iftars fundraised for humanitarian aid in Gaza. Another, collaborated with Yale’s Sudanese Student Association, aimed to fundraise aid for the crisis in Sudan.

“We chose to partner with Havenly to host this Iftar because of its dedication to supporting refugee women and other marginalized groups. Their mission aligned with our goal of uplifting the voices of marginalized groups, such as the Sudanese people whose struggles have been largely ignored over the past year”, said Fthia Yousif ’27, co-founder of SSA. “The charity Iftar provided a space to bring everyone together in the spirit of Ramadan.”

Beyond the many Iftars, two community Suhoors — the meal Muslims eat before dawn to begin their fast — were held at Silliman as students cooked the pre-dawn meal together. There was also a special event on the 27th night of Ramadan filled with the remembrance of God and reflections from students. 

Khalid Rashad ’25 noted that some students come from areas where there are not a lot of Muslims or built-in community support. He stated that he appreciates how Yale provides him with a community he can lean on during Ramadan. 

“We have a great community here, doing prayers together, eating Suhoor together. I’ve been able to connect with a lot of other Muslim students, something I didn’t have back home in Kentucky,” Rashad told the News.

Khan recognized the immense time commitment that Ramadan demands, especially when planning all the logistics that go into being in college during Ramadan. 

Yet, he feels thankful to be able to serve others.

“To show thankfulness to Allah is to show thankfulness to people. If you don’t show thankfulness to people you don’t show thankfulness to Allah. Serving other people is my way of serving Allah.”

Next year Ramadan is expected to begin on Friday, Feb. 28.

Ada Perlman covers religious life at Yale. She is a first year in Pierson College.