7:00 p.m. at Hamline University. A couple of students gather in Hamline’s Chapel, waiting for sunset. They are hungry and thirsty and looking forward for the first meal of the day. There are bowls with dates and almonds on the tables and an appetizing, spicy smell infuses the room, but the students are not yet allowed to eat. Most of them are Muslims. Since it is Ramadan, they are fasting from dawn to sunset.
“You could get up at five, having breakfast before sunrise. At home I used to do this, but since there is no such early breakfast offered at the University’s cafeteria, I just break the fast after sunset,” says Ousmane Diop. He’s a Fulbright exchange student from Senegal and arrived just a month ago at Hamline University. So far, he has not met many other Muslims, except his roommate, Mohammed, who is Muslim as well.
“There are about 25 students who have registered as Muslim, but I suppose there are actually some more Muslim students at Hamline,” says Megan Dimond, administrative assistant of the Religious and Spiritual Life Office. Hana, a graduate student who is doing her master in business administration and who coordinated this year’s common post-fast meal after sunset in Hamline University’s Chapel notes: “There is no Muslim life on campus. It’s a very small Muslim community at Hamline. Actually, one common breaking of the fast during Ramadan is the only time when almost all Hamline Muslim students come together.”
From an outside perspective, it seems very hard to handle about thirteen hours without any food or drink, especially if you’ve got classes during the day. But, when asked about their experiences, the Muslim students feel accustomed to the long time of abstaining from food. “I’ve started fasting at the age of six and I’m used to it. But sometimes you are really tired because the element that usually keeps you going, is missing,” says Adeel, a graduate student from Pakistan.
At the beginning of Ramadan, the Hamline University’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life reminded faculty and staff that there might be fasting students in their classes, so they should allow those Muslim students to eat during the classes that take place after sunset. “In my late class from 6 to 9 p.m.. my professor is so nice and gives me long time for break”, says Hana, the MBA student.
Sorin, the University’s cafeteria, does not offer special opening hours during Ramadan, but food can be bagged to go. Nevertheless, on this evening the Muslim students enjoy having the post-fast meal together. At 7:03 the sun sets, allowing them to break the fast traditionally by eating dates.