COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Tuesday marks the fourth day of Ramadan 2022, and it’s the first time since the onset of the pandemic that the local Muslim community has been able to congregate in person to celebrate.
For Aggie senior Abdurrahan Arastu, this April is the first time he’s been able to celebrate Ramadan in full with his College Station peers. He’s one of only about ten congregants at the Islamic Community of Bryan-College Station who has completely memorized the Quran, and he finally gets to use that skill for the holiday.
“When I was a freshman it was a normal year," Arastu said. "I was able to enjoy the community here during Ramadan – the first few days at least before I had to go home.”
The month of prayer, charity, and fasting fell into summer break for Aggie Muslims in 2019, and since then the communal holiday has been marred by social distancing requirements due to the pandemic. Being able to come together in fellowship is a critical part of Ramadan.
“Those few days my freshman year really got me connected to this community," Arastu said. "Those are memories I look back on even now.”
For Blinn College freshman nursing student Omar Borras, his immediate family is still living overseas. This year will be his first Ramadan without them. His professors and classmates at Blinn have been understanding as he’s stepped out during the course of the day to say his prayers.
“I’ve always been praying about tests and the anxiety that comes with that, but I think also for my family," Borras said. "It’s been a long time since I've seen them. I saw them in the winter break, but still, they’re very far away, all the way in Spain. So I do pray that they’re safe.”
Every night since Saturday, worshipers have been gathering together to pray, and to break fast once the sun sets. As they go about their days, they feel the effects of the fast, which remind them to reflect on God.
“The purpose of fasting is to distance yourself from what might otherwise consume your time, things of worldly life," Arastu said.
For many younger Muslim students, this will be their very first Ramadan celebrated together in Aggieland. Studies from the Pew Research Center show that Americans are becoming less and less religious. Arastu noted this poses a challenge for the local congregation. While the pandemic didn’t help things, faith still lives.
“I’ve heard from some of our newer members who came as freshmen during the pandemic, they never got to experience this," Arastu said. "They tell me, 'I didn’t realize our community was so alive, so vibrant.' And I’m just really happy they get to experience [Ramadan].”