By: Hamza Malik
Simon Fraser University’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) hosted a series of weekly iftaars, special dinners involving the breaking of the fast, for students on campus during the month of Ramadan. Many students of diverse backgrounds gathered each Friday in Maggie Benston Centre to break the fast in each others’ company.
“In addition to providing religious services and conducting educational programs, we try to have some events every semester to build a sense of community among the Muslims of SFU,” said Dostum Khan, a fourth-year political science student who currently serves as the president of the MSA.
The fasts are part of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims the world over abstain from the consumption of food, drink, and sexual activity (for those who are married) during daylight hours. Given that the timings follow the sun, the duration of the daily fasts within the Lower Mainland averages around 18 hours.
The community iftaars serve as one of the many events facilitated by the MSA over the course of the year, alongside religious gatherings, keynote lectures, prayer services, and social hangouts.
Beyond offering a sense of spiritual communion, the iftaars have also served as a comfort space for many international students to meet, connect, and feel like a vital part of the campus community.
“The iftaars were the very first time that I felt at home in Ramadan,” said Indian international student Daanyal Sheikh. “Being alone in Ramadan as an international student can be quite depressing, but the iftaars made me realize that I may be away from my family at home, but the Muslim community here is just another family for me now.”
Each dinner was preceded by a brief religious talk, often conducted by local Islamic scholars or MSA students. These brief talks offered spiritual insights, and encouraged the attendees to be mindful of God and move towards building a deeper connection with their religious teachings, ideals, and moral precepts.
The meals offered via external catering services represented an array of cultural diversity, with dishes ranging from the famed Pakistani biryani to different Arab-oriented cuisines.
“At the end of the day, no matter how exhausting these events are for the volunteers, the satisfaction one attains by receiving such heartwarming feedback from international students outweighs everything else,” remarked Faye, a community volunteer who wished to be identified by only her first name.
The MSA hosts the weekly iftaar programs every year during Ramadan on Friday evenings. The events hosted by the students are open to everyone, irrespective of faith.
Hamza Malik is a senior executive member of the Muslim Students Association.