Islamic Awareness Week
If there’s one thing Muslims can agree upon, it’s that a lot of people need a lot of education about Islam. And fast. Early in the Spring semester, HIS organizes a number of events for Islam Awareness Week (or IAW). Past events have included a talk about the basics of Islamic Law (the shari`a), a lecture about Islam and modernity, and a study break showcasing aspects of Muslim culture. A much-awaited staple of the week is the Athan (the Muslim call to prayer) being called out on the steps of Widener at 1pm every day of the week. This year, it will be called out from February 25 to February 29.
What differentiates IAW from, say, a lecture series about Islam featuring various academics? As Muslims, we feel it’s our responsibility to give everyone here the opportunity to learn about Islam from Muslims who are striving (in a variety of ways!) to embody its ideals in their daily life. We think it’s a perspective that’s extremely critical to have. While we try to do this at various events throughout the year, IAW allows us to combine our efforts to good effect. Think of it as having a pint of ice cream all at once as opposed to one scoop at a time.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the HIS calendar, Fast-a-thon simultaneously draws attention to the worldwide problem of starvation and hunger while encouraging interfaith dialogue and an understanding of some of the core ideals of Islam.Students are encouraged to fast for the day, and in return Harvard University Dining Services, a few corporate sponsors, and private individuals donate money to a chosen charity. Other donations are strongly encouraged. In the evening, all those participating breaks their fasts together. A few years ago the Fast-a-thon benefited the Save The Children Foundation and was a resounding success with about 700 students participating – we’re aiming even higher this year!
Suffice it to say that we are blessed with delicious meals amongst wonderful people in the most sacred of months. It’s quite special. HIS members often feel that this is when the Muslim community at Harvard really begins to feel like a family.Some iftars (the fast-breaking meal in the evening) are co-sponsored by student groups such as Hillel, the Catholic Students Association, the Society of Arab Students and the South Asian Association. Several are also hosted by some of the graduate schools’ Muslim organizations – notably one iftar each Ramadan is hosted at the Law, Business and Divinity Schools.Special suhoors (the pre-dawn meal before the fast begins) are held at least once a week, during the weekend. Prepare to have your roommates ogle at you with a curious mixture of shock, confusion, and envy when you announce that you will be joining HIS for a meal at 4am on a Saturday morning.At least once (possibly more, as demand dictates!) we head down to the local IHOP for a slightly early suhoor. Other suhoors are usually held in the Canaday Common Room, with HIS members dishing out their repertoire of cooking skills, making for some of the most delicious meals you’ll have here. You’ll be surprised at how meaningful some of the conversations at this early hour can be!
Finally, members of the HIS community gather in the musalla for Isha (the daily night prayer) and tarawih prayers (the prayers of relaxation, which are special congregational prayers offered during Ramadan) that are led by Na’eel Cajee ’10, who is a beautiful reciter and a hafiz (one who has memorized the Qur’an. During the second half of Ramadan, additional daily late-night programs are offered during the night at the Islamic Society of Boston in Central Square.
Spring and Fall Dinners
HIS’ annual Spring and Fall Dinners are a time for the full Muslim community to get together, laugh, eat, and listen to one of our respected members speak on a topic of importance. Everyone wears their best ethnic clothing and the food is always delicious and cultural. We even have some of our undergraduates provide entertainment! These two events are definitely some of the must-dos at Harvard and are a great experience.