On Monday, Cornell celebrated Eid al-Fitr — the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan — with community-wide prayers, celebrations and a banquet in person after two years of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, and is significant to Muslims as the month of the first revelations from Allah. The month is observed by fasting, prayers and intense study of The Quran and one’s faith, and ends with the three-day Eid al-Fitr celebration.
Eid al-Fitr began with a community wide Eid Salah — the prayer which begins Eid — at 8 a.m. in Barton Hall. According to Mariama Bah ’24, this year’s prayer had a profound effect on the audience.
“The Eid prayer in Barton was amazing. Chaplain Yasin gave a great dua [a short prayer of invocation] discussing how we should always be grateful for what we have, even when we get used to God’s blessings. It was really impactful,” Bah said.
This year’s Eid followed a Ramadan marked by many firsts for the Cornell community, according to Chaplain Yasin Ahmed.
“We had our largest interfaith iftar this year with over 150 people from different faiths, PAMSA held for the first time a Black Iftar, highlighting Pan-African Muslim Students on campus and this was the first time that we gathered together and worshiped overnight as a part of Laylat al-Qadr,” the chaplain said.
Ashira Weinreich ’24 was one of the people who attended the interfaith iftar, and said she enjoyed the celebration and seeing so many religious groups mix.
“I have been lucky to be surrounded by people from so many religions my entire life, and at Cornell,” Weinriech said. “But it was a beautiful experience to see such a large group gathered to share thoughts and food.”
Ramadan was also an invaluable experience at Cornell for those who don’t usually have the opportunity to meet other Muslims on campus, like Sokhnadiarra Ndiaye ’24, who said that Ramadan brought her closer to her Muslim campus community.
“My Ramadan has been amazing here at Cornell. It is very easy or convenient to ignore parts of your Muslim identity while in school, and meeting and connecting with so many people from so many backgrounds has brought me so much peace,” Ndiaye said. “The cultural exchange housed in these events can not be replicated anywhere else.”
For students like Ndiaye, the experience of a Cornell-hosted Eid showed her new ways to celebrate the holiday.
“In my culture, women typically don’t attend the prayers. We cook food for lunch and dinner and prepare the home for Eid celebration,” Ndiaye said. “Cornell was the first time that I experienced a non-gendered celebration for Eid where we could all pray together.”
The Cornell Eid experience also changed how Ndiaye sees Islam in general, removing some of the gender barriers she had perviously encountered.
“I’m learning that Islam is not as gendered as I was raised to believe in my home, and my experience at Cornell has helped me to remove the male gaze that I had to learn to grow up in my culture,” Ndiaye said.
For others, Eid at Cornell helped them embrace another side of the holiday that they had not experienced back home by incorporating different customs.
“Back home there was a larger West African Muslim population. We had a larger focus on gathering and celebrating within our family,” Bah said. “Here the focus is much more on socializing with friends and praying, but I am thankful that I still get to have this experience in a new way.”
Eid al-Fitr will close on the fourth of May at the 6 p.m. banquet in Willard Straight Memorial Hall, which is often the most popular Muslim event on campus. Students dress up and enjoy food and presentations from peers and invited speakers with their friends to mark the end of the holiday.
Chaplain Yasin said that the importance of these events, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic stopping celebrations for the past two years, are a necessary part of helping students become comfortable with their faith.
“We haven’t gotten to celebrate Ramadan in person for a couple of years, so having organic groups of hundreds of students to gather without a motive and just discuss their life without boundaries or restrictions is very important,” the chaplain said. “It was transformative for everyone involved.”
But while the end of Eid celebrations is a time for community and fun, the chaplain also emphasized how the moral and religious dimension of the holiday is meant to stay with Muslims throughout the year.
“The lesson that we hope students carry forward from Ramadan is that whatever fast you go through later on in life, whether it be financial or spiritual or anything else… every fast will be broken and followed by a celebration of God,” the chaplain said.