A celebratory and informative webinar for Muslim and Non-Muslim members of the University of Bristol was a huge success . The event was a joint effort between the Global Lounge, Student Inclusion Team, and the BME Success programme, with support from BRISOC and the Multifaith Chaplaincy.
On Thursday the 30th of April, the Global Lounge’s first ever digital cultural event unfolded. Over 60 people attended the webinar on Blackboard Collaborate for a chance to learn about – and celebrate – the Islamic month of Ramadan. After welcoming statements from Deputy-Vice Chancellor and University of Bristol Provost, Prof Judith Squires, the session featured several speakers and launched the BME Success Programme’s inclusive guide for supporting Muslim students.
In lieu of the food stalls the Global Lounge has offered at previous events, food delivery vouchers were distributed to Muslim attendees. Non-Muslim attendees were also offered vouchers in return for pledging to spend a day fasting; the Global Lounge aimed to show solidarity with Muslim colleagues and to create a greater understanding of the Ramadan experience, while respecting the Ramadan tradition of sharing food.
“Ramadan is a time of self-reflection and improvement” – Nimra Naeem, BME Success Advocate
Bristol Islamic Society president Hussain Abass opened the event with an introduction to Ramadan. Hussain shared the holy month’s origins in the Qur’an, as well as the traditions that accompany it, such as fasting and a full prayer schedule – as well as heightened self-reflection and community involvement. As he told attendees, “[fasting] is not just to taste hunger and taste what poverty is like, it’s to develop our character.”
Building on Hussain’s introduction, Nimra Naeem, a Be More Empowered (BME) Success Advocate, divulged some of the experiences that she, and others, undergo as Muslim students celebrating Ramadan. Here, she outlined that students often experience a shift in their priorities as they dedicate themselves to self-reflection. However, Nimra also spoke about some of the challenges of Ramadan: students must manage the physical toll of fasting and interrupting their sleep pattern to pray, alongside fulfilling their usual personal and educational responsibilities. In efforts to curb these effects, Nimra offered event attendees some tips, like adjusting your sleep and study patterns to maximise your wellbeing. Here, she reminded students that may have misgivings about how they spend Ramadan that “studying is a type of ibadah” (worship). Given that isolated students might be feeling particularly homesick during Ramadan, as it is usually a time for family and community, Nimra also suggested regularly facetiming loved-ones and attending digital events that Islamic cultural societies and mosques are holding (see links at end).
Support in the Bristol community
Next, Robiu Salisu, Bristol University BAME Student Inclusion Officer, launched the inclusive guide for supporting Muslim students. Robiu outlined how some of Ramadan’s challenges can be mitigated by support from University staff and students, and how the guide gives them the tools to do so. For example, the guide raises awareness about the prayer needs that Muslim students might have, including short breaks from seminars at specific prayer times and access to clean, safe spaces to pray around University.
Robiu was joined by Munira Hashmi, one of Bristol University’s Muslim Chaplains, as they spoke about facing the Covid-19 crisis during Ramadan. After Robiu shared the Muslim Council of Britain’s ‘Ramadan at Home’ guide, Munira explained how the Qur’an offers advice for navigating the crisis by prioritising the safeguarding of life and the practice of patience. Munira, who has worked at the Multifaith Chaplaincy for 10 years, offered her support to Muslim and non-Muslim attendees alike— as she told attendees, “despite our best efforts, isolation and loneliness can be very emotional”. She can be contacted here.
Lastly, after a lively Q&A and the sharing of tips with and from attendees (see below), the presenters distributed some final resources, such as links to the Bristol SU’s virtual Friday Iftar events and the free Iftar bags that charity organisation Sawa in Janna are offering to Muslim students who have had to remain in Bristol.
Tips from our attendees
Some of our attendees had great advice for fasting, which they shared in the group conversation during the event:
- Prepare for fasting by eating slow-release foods beforehand, like oats and bananas
- During your fast, remove items that remind you of food or water
- If you start to feel dehydrated, try spraying the air with cold rosewater
- Save your shower for when you can most refresh yourself, like in the afternoon so you can work till Iftar (Ramadan’s sunset meal)
- Use mentholated topical ointments for headaches, as you don’t have to consume them for them to relieve pain
Indeed, Robiu found that performing wudu (ablutions before praying) helps refresh him through the day. In terms of finding relief at Iftar, attendees gave a whole host of suggestions for what foods best re-hydrate, including yogurt, dates, watermelon, cucumber and chia seeds with water. Indeed, these high water content foods can be great to consume before fasting to keep thirst at bay.
Other attendees shared tips for having a fulfilling Ramadan without feeling overwhelmed, like setting seven tasks for you to accomplish over a week, or breaking down reading the Qu’ran into ayahs (verses). Lastly, one participant reminded others that they don’t need an “all or nothing approach. No matter what improvement you make this year, no matter how small, it’s valuable”.
Inclusive Guide for Supporting Muslim Students
Bristol University places to worship
Bristol Multifaith Chaplaincy
Bristol Islamic Society Facebook
Be More Empowered for Success programme
Bristol SU Friday virtual Iftar
Sawa in Janna – free Iftar bags
Muslim Council of Britain – Ramadan at Home