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Students from the English Language Institute’s SABIC Foundational Year, the Khbrat program and the ELI Women’s Group shared what the traditions of Ramadan and Iftar mean for them. Left to right: MariaJosé Riera, SABIC FY coordinator, Fawziah Altowairqi (slightly obscured), Mohammed Mohammed (speaking), Abdulaziz Zanguty, Ahmed Altaha and Sumayh Alazmi.
Students from the English Language Institute’s SABIC Foundational Year, the Khbrat program and the ELI Women’s Group shared what the traditions of Ramadan and Iftar mean for them. Left to right: MariaJosé Riera, SABIC FY coordinator, Fawziah Altowairqi (slightly obscured), Mohammed Mohammed (speaking), Abdulaziz Zanguty, Ahmed Altaha and Sumayh Alazmi.

Breaking the fast together

Photo by Tim Kim

Students share the tradition of Iftar with hundreds of UD community members

More than 300 University of Delaware students, staff and faculty gathered on the Old College lawn in late May to wait for sunset to celebrate Iftar together — the daily breaking of the Ramadan fast.

For one day, the rainy spring weather broke, allowing the Iftar to go on as planned. Members of the University’s Muslim community, domestic and international, and their families congregated with fellow University community members who came out to experience the Iftar, many for the first time.

“The Iftar was held not only for those who were fasting but for anyone that wanted to know more about the culture,” said Ahmed Altaha, a SABIC Cohort 4 Scholar. “We welcomed everyone with open arms because we wanted to tell the people all about our fasting ritual.”

The Iftar was organized by students and staff in UD’s English Language Institute. ELI coordinates the SABIC Foundation Year program and the SABIC FY scholars, which are sponsored by Saudi Basic Industries Corporation. The ELI Women’s Group and the ELI Khbrat Program also participated in planning the event.

As the crowd waited for the sun to fall below the horizon, ELI students and undergraduate students discussed how Ramadan is significant for them and fielded questions about the traditions of fasting during Ramadan and breaking the fast at sundown.

“It was amazing to see so many fascinated in the tradition, which was why we had a question panel for those who were curious about Ramadan,” said Mohammed Mohammed, a SABIC Cohort 3 Scholar. “It was a great experience for all.”

Professor Debra Hess Norris, the Unidel Henry Francis du Pont Chair in Fine Arts and a member of the UD Board of Trustees, attended the Iftar.

“I appreciated the opportunity to interact with students, colleagues and their families during such a meaningful, inspiring, and uplifting event,” Norris said. “During that moment on the lawn of Old College, our campus community and the world were connected in powerful ways.”

ELI’s MariaJosé Riera guides the SABIC programs.

“The students and I fielded the idea to SABIC several months ago, and they were very enthusiastic to help support this initiative to bring cultural awareness and cross cultural dialogue to the heart of campus,” Riera said. “From the amazing turnout, I can tell we filled a real need for UD.  We hope to make this an annual event.”

Just after sunset, SABIC students circulated with water and dates to break the fast, a tradition rooted in Islamic teachings.

As the Iftar meal was served by the students, the line for the buffet of Middle Eastern food – complete with a table of desserts -- wrapped well outside of the tent set up for the event.

“It was an honor to see the University of Delaware community come out to learn more about Ramadan and to celebrate Iftar together, I was impressed by the number of people who attended,” said Mandy Thomas, academic adviser for educational programs at SABIC.

Scott Stevens, director of the ELI, praised the SABIC students for their hospitality.

“I am so proud of our SABIC scholars for being gracious hosts to 200 Muslim and non-Muslim guests, sharing a faith tradition and educating the University community in the process,” Stevens said.

In May 2017, the ELI and SABIC signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that created a foundation for faculty exchange and further opportunities for students.

“This Iftar event was another very visible example of the way in which the ELI and SABIC continue to collaborate to implement the MOU, which emphasizes the development of an admissions pipeline, research development, and cultural understanding,” said Karen Asenavage, associate director of the ELI.

Thomas concurred. “SABIC Educational Programs values its partnership with UD, and appreciates its dedication to our students and their culture.”


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