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The number of Muslim Canadians is on the rise, but most non-Muslims remain fairly ignorant of the religious practices of our fastest growing immigrant population. This month being the holy month of Ramadan, it is important to understand the sacrifices and choices that Muslims are making to remain true to their faith while living in Canada.

For those who don’t know, Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is a month of fasting dedicated to Allah, with its main purpose being to bring the supplicant closer to Allah and give him or her the experience of deprivation. This experience can be used as a deterrent against bad behavior and a reminder to live life as per the example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is also meant to be remembered year round, so that when it comes time to do good work and give charity (another of Islam’s Five Pillars), the devotee truly understands what it feels like to have nothing. This is meant to act as a motivation to do good for their fellow human beings.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. The fast ends at a sunset ritual called Iftar, in which they take their first food and drink of the day. Fasting is extremely challenging to complete successfully in the best of circumstances. Here in Canada ,where the summer sun generally rises between 4:00AM and 5:00AM and doesn’t set again until well after 9:00PM. Ramadan fasting takes on a whole other level of devotion. This adversity is causing Muslims to band together to support each other through the holy month.

Muhammad Arif Khan, President of the Trent Muslim Student Association, explains some of the challenges of fasting, and the initiatives they are implementing to assist Muslim students and promote community awareness this Ramadan.

“In Muslim countries, such as Pakistan, Saudia Arabia,and Bangladesh, employees and students get flexible hours to observe prayer and take breaks during the day. So, in non – Muslim countries, it makes it challenging for teenagers and young adults to observe the fast, because the environment is not encouraging. Additionally, people in Muslim countries do not usually eat outside out of respect for Muslims, which makes fasting very encouraging for teenagers.”

With all of these challenges facing Muslims, the TMSA has partnered with the local Peterborough Mosque to bring some relief to local Muslims and students. The Masjid Al Salam Mosque, located at 784 Parkhill Rd. W, hosts a daily Iftar meal for any Muslim student wishing to attend.

“Most students who live away from their families have difficulty making Sehri (the pre- dawn meal) and Iftar (the meal eaten upon sunset) with their hectic schedule,” says Khan. The TMSA is doing its best to assist those students by reducing the additional preparations and work required to observe Ramadan in Peterborough.

The mosque also hosts Iftar for the entire Peterborough Muslim community on Saturday and Sunday throughout the month of Ramadan. With Eid al-Fitr , the celebration marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan approaching this coming Saturday, the TMSA is busy making preparations for the well deserved celebration. Khan wants the Peterborough community to know, “Eid Day starts by going to the mosque for Eid prayer, and giving a donation to charity. Masjid Al Salam arranges breakfast with a lot of delicious sweets. Everyone is welcomed for all the Ramadan and Eid events.”

Challenges aside, Ramadan is meant to be a time of peace and spiritual reflection. The Trent community is lucky to have such dedicated volunteers working to allow students to observe their religion with grace in adversity.