Sophie Arzumanov / Sun Staff Writer

Ramadan — a month-long holy period that requires Muslims to fast from sunrise to sunset — falls during Finals this year, posing unique dining and academic challenges to students who must balance the obligations of religion and school.

May 7, 2019

With Ramadan Coinciding With Finals, Cornell’s Muslim Students Face Challenges

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For the Muslim community at Cornell this year, this year’s final weeks will be more complicated than usual. For only the second time since 1989, Ramadan — a month-long holy period that requires adherents to avoid eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset — will coincide with the exam period.

This year’s Ramadan will begin on the evening of Sunday, May 5, and will end the evening of Tuesday, June 4. In order to accommodate the Muslim community, some dining halls will have extended hours until 9 p.m. This schedule will be in effect until May 21 for Appel’s North Star Dining Room and May 17 for the Robert Purcell Marketplace Eatery and Cook House Dining Room.

These dining halls will also offer take-out containers and breakfast boxes for those who wish to eat after 9 p.m., or in the early morning hours before sunrise.

However, because Muslims break their fast at sunset, this can sometimes occur during a student’s evening final or affect their ability to concentrate when studying.

“Having to wake up at 3:30 a.m. everyday to eat before the sun rises is challenging especially because it makes it hard to study and concentrate later,” said Malikul Muhamad ’20. “It’s really challenging to find time to study for finals and work on projects while also finding time to worship.”

At the same time, while The New York State Education Law §224-A requires faculty to accommodate students missing an exam due to religious observation, not all students are aware or feel comfortable making this request, Muhamad said.

University policy required students to notify their professors before February 1 — over three months before Ramadan began.

“In my opinion, February 1 was extremely too early for students to notify professors about this,” Muhamad said, adding that many professors have not informed students of these accommodations, which could discourage a student from asking.

In addition to dining and testing, Muhamad highlighted a lack of “reflective-quiet” spaces to facilitate prayer on campus as an area for improvement.

“One of the things that I could change about the campus is to include more … space rooms on campus for Muslims to pray,” he said.

Muhamad, a student in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, had previously voiced these concerns to the school’s faculty. Starting this fall, Ives Hall will provide space for students to pray.

“This is going to be the first time my fasting while finals are going on so it’ll be interesting, to say the least. I know myself and many others are excited for the Ramadan and the spiritual rejuvenation is provides for us,” said Yahya Abdul-Basser ’20, president of the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association and the Committee for the Advancement of Muslim Life.

“Ramadan is not just about fasting and abstaining from food and water, but it’s also a time to increase our worship by praying, reflecting, and reading the Quran more,” Muhamad said. “Balancing all of those things can be difficult but it is something I am confident that I and the rest of the community can do.”