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For Islamic Society, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the previous academic year particularly challenging in terms of organising social events. This has been especially hard on our freshers as they have been unable to adapt to University life as quickly as they otherwise might have.
Muslims fast for 30 days during the month of Ramadan. Apart from giving up eating and drinking, they are meant to reform their personal behaviour and act in a compassionate and morally upright manner.
Ramadan is known to many as a time of spiritual nourishment and a way of attaining God-consciousness. However, many people do not know that Ramadan is a time of great collective and communal spirit. It is a very social time of the year with Muslims getting together to open fasts as well as pray.
We as a committee understood that this was the first Ramadan away from home for a lot of our members. It would be difficult for them to be without their families and friends so wanted to make sure that we could provide some form of support and comfort so that they felt a part of the community at the University of Plymouth.
^ The Islamic Society has run weekly Homeless Outreaches with Shekinah where we have distributed packages of care, on Sundays from around January till the end of June, including heartfelt positive messages from the team.
Ramadan happened at the time of significant restrictions on social gatherings. No indoor gatherings were allowed and there was a limit on the outdoor numbers too. Therefore, we found it especially hard to help our members have a fulfilling Ramadan. We eventually decided to offer takeaway food boxes for most and for a small number, there was an outdoor fast opening organised on the SU Roof.
We were overwhelmed by the interest shown in our fast openings, with around 80 people safely and routinely coming to collect the takeaway boxes from us while following all COVID guidelines. This was supplemented with a small number of members opening the fast together on the SU roof in socially distanced groups of six. We were sad not to provide collective fast openings for more people but the COVID-19 restrictions were such that we could not.
Despite this, we are grateful that we were able to offer some type of support for our members. Many people expressed their happiness with the fast openings/food boxes organised and we were overjoyed at the interest shown in them.
It was great to be able to keep the Ramadan spirit alive in some way for our members. Our hope is to offer bigger and better fast openings next Ramadan with (hopefully) no restrictions in place.
Thank you to all the society members, committee members, and the SU for all their help and support. We would also like to thank Beckley Point for allowing us to use their kitchen facilities to prepare the food.
Quotes from students who attended the iftaars:
"Tasty, enjoyable and faith-strengthening all at the same time."
“The energy was unmatched and reminded me of the communal feeling that we had in iftaars back home.”
“Praying together was really nice too and added to the spiritual atmosphere of the month.”
“Going to the iftar celebration organised by the ISOC society was a lovely experience. Everyone was super lovely and welcoming and helped me learn loads about their religion. If I were to take one thing away from it, as a religious person myself, is confirming how great religion is overall to bring people together to do so much good for the community.”
“Best one ever! Thanks to the ISOC community and I loved how it was outdoors.”
“Our Ramadan iftaars were a wonderful end to our ISOC year, with lots of beautiful memories created, new friends made, and money raised for charity. None of this would have been possible without our hard-working committee, our generous sponsors and most of all the mercy of God. We look forward to more of you joining us for our Ramadan celebrations next year.”