Syd Smith

Each year, millions of Muslims in the United States participate in a celebration called Ramadan. In the ninth month of the Islamic year, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset in order to become more connected to their faith and to understand the struggles of those who are less fortunate. Sophomore Nehal Shahzad says that “empathy is a big part of Islam. Fasting from sunrise to sunset allows me to understand what it’s like to not be so blessed.” A typical day during Ramadan consists of waking up before sunrise, praying, eating a meal, and then heading off to school or work. At sunset, Muslims pray and enjoy a meal with family and friends. Each individual celebrates Ramadan with their own foods and traditions, and there are thousands of different practices across the globe. At the end of the month, Muslims come together to celebrate the end of Ramadan at a gathering called Eid al-Fitr.

Though Ramadan may sound foreign and uncommon, many students at Middleton High School celebrate it. Around 80% of Muslims in the United States celebrate Ramadan by fasting. Shahzad has met many MHS students through her religious community and sharing the traditions of Ramadan has brought them closer together: “It’s cool to see how I’ve gotten to know all of these people through my faith.” While abstaining from eating and drinking may sound outrageous to some, many other religions have similar practices. Some forms of Christianity celebrate Lent and forego habits at that time, those who follow Hinduism may fast on different days of the year, and Jewish people often fast on holidays such as Yom Kippur.

While speaking about Ramadan, Shahzad acknowledged that talking about Islam and her faith can be difficult at school: “On the news, [Islam] is being bashed as a religion and the way the media shows Muslims and Islam makes me never want to talk about it. They don’t know what they’re saying, and they need to be educated on what the religion is and what it’s about.” While other (mainly Christian) students may feel as though they are able to talk freely about their holidays, students like Shahzad are often concerned with how their classmates will react.

The celebration of Ramadan is an essential aspect of the Islamic religion, and sharing it with family and friends brings people from all walks of life together. Though Muslims, as well as other minority religious groups, are often discriminated against in America, students like Nehal Shahzad remind us that Islam merits the same respect as major U.S. religions such as Christianity.