Three questions with ... Najabat Abbasi, director of the Islamic Center of Lawrence
On the street
Actually, my father is Muslim, so I’ve done it before. It was challenging and very rewarding.
Muslims on Thursday began one of the holiest times of the year by denying themselves food throughout the day - and then, when the sun went down, gathering with family or friends for a celebratory meal.
In Lawrence, about 80 people came to the Islamic Center of Lawrence to break the fast and then for the iftar dinner and prayers. The dinner was mostly for students, but several community members also attended.
"There is a reference to this in the Quran," said Najabat Abbasi, director of the center. "Once you are 12 years old, it is compulsory that you fast."
Fasting during Ramadan is among the six pillars of Islam.
The weekday meals are intended for the student community, but on Saturday, Abbasi said, the dinner is open to the entire community.
The fasting and iftar dinners will go on every night for the next 29 to 30 days, until Ramadan concludes with Eid al-Fitr, which is based on sighting the new moon.
For many of the students, observing Ramadan can be a challenge. Often, Muslims choose to get up before sunrise in order to eat the first meal of the day. That can be difficult for students in Kansas University's residence halls.
Sheryl Kidwell, assistant director of dining services, said that the department has posted signs advising students to contact the dining hall manager to make special Ramadan arrangements.
"The manager talks with them about their schedule and when they eat and what they like to eat," Kidwell said. "Sometimes they can come to get a meal to go after they eat dinner. They can then eat that in the morning."
Faisal Mirza, a KU junior from Dhaka, Bangladesh, said he came to the iftar because it was a way to connect with people from around the world.
"You don't get to see a lot of these people, except during Ramadan," he said. "Each year, we can meet new people and see what they've been doing."
Faisal Almadani, a sophomore from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said it can be rewarding to maintain the fast while in the United States, because there's no pressure to follow the rules of Islam.
"We're doing this for God," he explained. "We can eat at any time; there's no pressure because no one else is doing it, but God is watching us."