On November 11th, the HBS Islamic Society held a fast-breaking dinner to share the occasion of the month of Ramadan with students, faculty, and staff. The event was meant to celebrate the diversity of the student body by sharing the culture, heritage, and beliefs of Muslims on campus. It was opened with the traditional call to prayer at sunset, followed by breaking of the fast which is customarily done with a date-fruit. A feast consisting of foods from the Middle East and South Asia followed the fast breaking ceremony.
The month of Ramadan holds great significance in the Islamic calendar because it is believed to be the month in which the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed by God. During this month, Muslims are required to abstain from eating, drinking, and engaging in sexual activity from dawn to sunset. Fasting comprises one of the five pillars of Islam, which together form the foundation of a Muslim’s life. The other four pillars are the declaration of God’s Oneness, the five daily prayers, almsgiving to the needy, and pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
Most Muslims arise early in the morning to have a pre-dawn meal in preparation of the fast. At sunset, the fast is completed with a fast-breaking meal which is generally shared with family, friends, and the community. There are also special prayers at night during this month where the Quran is recited aloud as a commemoration to its revelation.
For Muslims, there are several benefits from fasting. It helps one empathize with the less fortunate ones for whom skipping lunch is not a choice, but rather a reality of daily life. It is also a means of developing self discipline and control from desires such as hunger and thirst.
Developing resistance to these natural urges helps one better resist temptations for things that are not necessary for human life. Fasting is also a means of purifying one’s soul by developing a greater sense of humility and nearness to God. A heightened sense of spirituality is felt during the day, as each time a Muslim feels hunger or thirst, they are reminded of the purpose of their fast. Generosity and forgiveness are also characteristics that are practiced more ardently during this month.
The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a very festive holiday called Eid ul Fitr, meaning the Festival of Concluding the Fast. Eid represents the most important holiday in the Islamic calendar and is celebrated with great pomp and splendor in Muslim communities. This year Ramadan commenced on October 15th and Eid was celebrated on November 14th.
The fast breaking dinner was held at the Hamilton lounge and was attended by over 150 students, faculty, and staff members. The Student Association, South Asian Business Association, Middle East and North Africa Club, and Africa Business Club co-sponsored the event.