Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Muslim Life Welcomes Hundreds for Ramadan Celebration, Iftar

Georgetown University welcomed hundreds of guests for its University Ramadan Celebration and Iftar April 2.

Muslim Life hosted the event to commemorate the spiritual month of Ramadan, a time of religious reflection, interfaith community building and the renewal of commitments to works of justice, in the Leavey Ballroom. The program featured a presentation on the customs observed during Ramadan, as well as a dua — a supplication to God — by Imam Yahya Hendi, the university’s Muslim chaplain and prayers by several Georgetown community religious leaders. 

Iman Saymeh, a Muslim residential minister who opened the speaking program with her reflections on the holy month, said she hopes students leave the iftar with their minds open to new experiences.

“Our friends who came tonight, you came for a reason,” Saymeh said at the event. “Yes, you got food. I hope you liked it, but you got to connect. And some of you might have been somebody’s guest, but your heart brought you here. I ask you to diversify your experience when you’re here at Georgetown.” 

Ramadan, a time of heightened religious observance for Muslims, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and ends April 9. Many practicing Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, a practice which serves to bring observers closer to God through spiritual discipline.

University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) delivered a speech at the celebration and said he is impressed by Muslim students’ commitment to their faith during this holy, yet challenging time.

“This is a sacred time,” DeGioia said at the event. “All of you have made commitments to upholding the tenets of your faith, to living that faith here in the context of this community. This is also a very challenging time — suffering of people across our world, the suffering of the people of Gaza, immense pain so many families and children are experiencing.”

DeGioia called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and a return of hostages April 1 in an email to the Georgetown community.

The program also included brief prayers from Rev. Gregory A. Schenden, S.J., the director of Campus Ministry; Rev. Ebony Grisom, the director for Protestant Life; Rev. Dr. Shazetta Thompson-Hill, the program director for Residential Ministry; and student representatives from Dharmic Life and Jewish Life.

Isra Satiar (SOH ’26), a presenter at the celebration, said she particularly appreciates the diverse nature of Muslim Life’s open iftars.

Daniel Greilsheimer/The Hoya | Georgetown University’s Muslim Life welcomed hundreds of guests for its University Ramadan Celebration and Iftar on April 2, an event open to all faiths that commemorated the spirit of Islam’s holy month.

“Some of our best iftars have been those in which we strengthen the Muslim community’s bond with the rest of the community, as being unified with all those around us — no matter how different or similar — is one of the strongest components of Islam,” Satiar told The Hoya.

Modeled after Fast-A-Thon, an event held in past years which invited non-Muslims to fast alongside Muslims for the day, this year’s official celebration brought together students of a diverse range of faiths. At the iftar, participants broke the day’s fast with dates and water at sunset. The call to prayer followed before the roughly 450 attendees received dinner.

John Schwendinger (SFS ’26), who attended the iftar, is fasting for the entire month of Ramadan even though he is not a part of the Muslim tradition.

Schwendinger said he most values the self-discipline required to fast and appreciates how welcoming Muslim Life has been.

“I’m fasting for the month of Ramadan because, regardless of personal religious belief, fasting is an exercise in self-control that anyone can benefit from,” Schwendinger wrote to The Hoya. “It is especially enriching to fast with others, and the Georgetown Muslim community has been very welcoming.”

Meriam Ahmad (SFS ’26), a Muslim Life fellow, said Ramadan serves as her spiritual check-up — a month to self-reflect and cut back on bad habits.

“Ramadan is a time for me to step back and critically assess the trajectory of my life,” Ahmad wrote to The Hoya. “Ramadan requires us to abstain from eating and drinking, but it also strongly encourages us to critically examine ourselves. I try to regularly ask myself: am I getting closer to being the person I hope to be?”

“I do my best to complain less, gossip less, shop less, spend less time on social media, and generally minimize my negative behaviors,” she added.

Ahmad and the other Muslim Life fellows have helped to organize daily iftars on Mondays through Thursdays, as well as additional special iftars on other days. 

The celebration concluded with remarks from Hendi, who became the first full-time Muslim chaplain at an American university when Georgetown hired him in 1999.

Hendi said the spirit of Ramadan, a time of both discomfort and calm, induces a close bond among members of the Muslim faith.

“We leave the comfortable for the uncomfortable, so that we may become comfortable,” Hendi said at the event. “We challenge ourselves to become better, to liberate ourselves from the bondage of fear and worry, to bring ourselves closer to one another as a community.”

Saymeh said Ramadan provides a chance for Muslims to cleanse their heart and allow care and compassion to blossom.

“One of the benefits of Ramdan and fasting is the softening of the heart,” Saymeh said at the event. “If we want to get to a deeper level of spirituality and compassion and love and care and giving, it does start with the heart, so really, this is the month of the heart.”

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Daniel Greilsheimer
Daniel Greilsheimer, Senior Sports Editor
Daniel Greilsheimer is a sophomore in the SFS from Port Washington, N.Y., studying regional and comparative studies with minors in journalism and environmental science. He is the former Senior Opinion Editor and is still a huge fan of Costco (he's been to locations in seven U.S. states and territories). [email protected]
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