The Arabic Flagship Center kicks off Ramadan with a feast!
While the Islamic celebration of Ramadan is beloved in the Middle East, it’s less well known in the West. The Arabic Flagship Center hosted an evening celebration to help educate students about Ramadan and Arabic study opportunities. Center leadership and a visiting Moroccan professor, Dr. Housni Bennis from Washington University in St. Louis, spoke about their experiences with Ramadan.
Bennis explained that Ramadan is known as the month that the Qur’an was revealed. Ramadan itself isn’t a holiday, it’s the month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims fast, before Eid al-Fitr, which is the real holiday. Eid celebrates the end of a month-long period of fasting and becoming a more spiritual person. It is about giving thanks and spending time with family while enjoying the end of the fast.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours from food, water, and carnal desires, such as smoking or sex. It’s 30 days of increased spirituality, devotion to God, and self-improvement.
Bennis stated that during Ramadan, Muslims engage in more prayers than normal, including congregational prayers that unite them with their community. After the last prayers have been said at sundown, people go out to talk with their neighbors and have fun. He clarified that some Arabic countries celebrate Ramadan with elaborate feasts in the evening, while others such as Morocco simply eat their traditional meals but at night.
After the explanations of Ramadan, the directors of the Arabic Flagship Center spoke about the benefits of learning Arabic: it opens doors to job opportunities, it helps you understand another culture, and it gives opportunities for travel.
Rita Cortez, managing director, explained that money should never be the issue that keeps a student from learning Arabic or studying abroad. While there are no guarantees a student will get funded, so far federal funding has made it possible for all interested students to enjoy a full year of study with the Morocco Capstone experience. Cortez said, “We have managed to find money for everyone, no one had to pay much, [no more than $2,000].” A former student in the program, Hannah Miller, described her experience, saying, “It’s a really unique and special program. I hope you take advantage of all the opportunities it gives. Arabic will open a lot of doors.”
After a few remarks by the other directors, Ahmad Karout (Arabic Flagship Center coordinator) and Professor R. Kirk Belnap (Arabic), Jordanian graduate student Hind Alsboul gave a traditional Arabic one-word prayer: bismillah (meaning “in the name of Allah”). Attendees then lined up to partake of the feast of traditional Arab foods spread before them. The room filled with laughter as attendees chatted, ate together, and celebrated Arabic culture.
To learn more about the Arabic Flagship Center and stay up to date on more fun events, visit its website and follow it on Instagram @byuarabicflagship!