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A month of fasting and thoughtful introspection marks Ramadan.
Nathan Wood/the Gauntlet

The holiest of months

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Ramadan began last week for Muslims across the world, yet most non-Muslims have only a limited understanding of this month-long event.

As part of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours. In addition, daily prayers are increased and a sense of community and peace is nurtured.

Mohammed Taha Al-Murayri, President of the University of Calgary Muslim Students' Association, described the holy month as a type of course for Muslims.

"We fast so that we can feel sympathy for the poor and hungry and learn how to control ourselves," said Al-Murayri. "It is a time when we try to enhance our relationship with Allah and improve our character in accordance with the pristine teachings of Islam."

At sunrise is Sahoor, the meal eaten before fasting begins, while Iftar takes place at sunset when the fast is broken and food is shared.

When Ramadan is over, the first day of the next month in the Islamic calendar is a day of celebration. Family and friends gather to worship and spend time together.

"Ramadan is a time of great joy where the community unites as one group," said Sherif Idris, a third-year Biological Science student. "Our hearts are humbled, we are reminded of our blessings and we give thanks for what we have."

What makes this Ramadan different from past years is the relative ease the Students' Union and the MSA experienced in making prayer space arrangements.

In 2004, a misunderstanding between the SU and the MSA over space bookings left many Muslim students without a place to pray, and had the MSA owing over $2,000 to the SU. This incident gained national media attention and left animosity between the two organizations.

This year's accommodations include prayers and Iftar in the Ballroom, and have left both sides satisfied.

"It went pretty smoothly," said SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Joel Lockwood. "Using the building blocks from last year we were able to build some rapport."

The long-term solution includes renovations to the Multi-Faith Prayer Space on the third floor of MacEwan Student Centre. The University gave $200,000 toward the renovations and the SU is providing a project management team. The new prayer space will accommodate multiple denominations and will also include footbaths for the Muslim community.

The MSA holds seminars and classes for non-Muslims and Muslims, and will also have a display set up in MSC during Islamic Awareness Week in the winter term.

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