Haylon Macataman, Shibib Mamaludin, and Angelica Pugon start their days like everybody else. For school, they commute down Hibbard Avenue, they leaf through their books (a slight panic propagates when an exam looms of their shoulders) and they talk to their friends to pass the time. Last month, however, was different from all the other months. There was the polite refusal of a snack or drink from an unassuming pal, the added constraint not to indulge in gossip, the slight irk of strangers’ overheard conversations. It was a deeply personal commitment, and although these three may have not met each other, they’ve all adhered to it.
Last Friday, July 17, our Muslim brothers and sisters ended their month-long celebration of Ramadan during Eid al-Fitr or “the breaking of the fast.” Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam; the ninth month of the Islamic calendar in which the Quran was revealed. For that month everydaystarts with the fasting from sunrise to sunset and then ends with a feast at night.
Islam has several denominations, including Sunni, Sufi, and Shia. Although their approaches are varied, they all hold fast to what Allah reveals in the Quran. Throughout Ramadan, the Muslim community fasts from dawn to sunset;fast not only from food or drink but also smoking and sex. They also refrain from backbiting, fighting, and other forms of indulgence. During Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to pray beyond their five daily obligatory prayers. For Haylon, she practices the Taraweh and the Tahajud. The former is a special prayer performed during Ramadan, while the latter is a voluntary prayer spoken at night. The fourth year biology student said:“Basically, during this month we sleep less and pray more.”
The fasting doesn’t spring from shallow motivations. According to Shibib, Ramadan is for the forgiveness of Allah. “It is a month where you sacrifice your own pleasures and where you leave all your sins for the sake of Allah and ask for forgiveness.”Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr, where a grand feast takes place; thus, breaking the fast. “It is a celebration of thanking Allah for sustaining and for giving us another year,” described Angelica.
Ramadan is one of the things that give Muslims their identity and as such, our Muslim brothers and sisters here in Silliman have a lot to say about who they are in the campus.
“As of now I am still studying Islam. As a Balik-Islam[a convert to Islam], I’m studying its purpose because I don’t want to commit to a religion without understanding its meaning,” said Angelica.
For Haylon, her journey began three years ago, when she started to pray the five daily obligatory prayers. Her head scarf, her hijab, came a year after that. She says she cannot say she is a perfect example of a true believer of her faith, but all she knows is that Islam makes her happy.
Shibib finds his faith to be more than a source of happiness.“Sometimes it also helps me distinguish who my real friends are: my real friends don’t believe the false [expletive] the media say about Islam because they know that Islam is all about peace. Any friend of mine, who doesn’t accept my religion, doesn’t accept me; therefore, he or she isn’t my friend.”
Being a minority among the students, they are subject to stereotypes or insults echoed throughout the corridors. Shibib recalls an incident of a teacher who offended him by saying that Muslims are all about violence. “… I posted a status on Facebook to educate my friends on what Islam really is since that teacher was spreading false information about my religion.” The civil engineering sophomore says he keeps his patience and leaves everything to Allah.
Besides having to face these attacks on their faith, being Muslim in a Christian institution serves its own kind of hardships. Haylon said that there are church-related events that she’s required to join. “…I never joined such activities because I don’t worship other gods besides Allah,” she revealed
Angelica shares the discomfort. She wishes the University can provide a prayer room for their obligatory prayers. However, she sees the effort the school gives to respect her beliefs. When she is required to go to the church, she is allowed to stay outside if she is uncomfortable with it.
These three, plus the many others of their community, face these problems along with the plight of being students in this university. They line up at the library to grab photocopies, they run from building to building when it rains, and they suffer the traffic for the commute home. Their sacrifices for Ramadan may have ended, but their struggle continues.
By Christian Renz Torres and John Rey Villareal
with notes from Nurlyn Elli and Shane Canono