Ramadan in the UK

Islamic students (Picture © Mat Wright)

25 July 2014; Updated 17 June 2015

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) is the UK's largest and oldest Muslim student organisation.

It brings together more than 115,000 students via 115 student Islamic societies at universities and colleges across the UK. It gives Muslim students a chance to meet others from their faith for prayer, support  and to make friends and get involved in activities.

Here, FOSIS explains how students in the UK observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan  and we find out about the Ramadan Tent, one of many student projects marking Ramadan in the UK.

'You may think a 21-hour fast every day for 31 days would make most students run into hibernation. But students in the UK have embraced the holy month of Ramadan, getting involved in local community projects and student-led initiatives alongside their studies. 

'Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, is a month of sacrifice, when daylight hours are spent fasting and prayers are said at night. It takes place during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar (18 June17 July this year) and ends with the festival of Eid-al-Fitr (which takes place on 18 July this year).

Ramadan Tent Project
Forming friendships: UK student Islamic societies are a great way to meet people from around the world (Picture: The Ramadan Tent)

'For Muslims, observing Ramadan is a duty, driven by faith and determination, to follow an essential command given to Moses, Abraham, Jesus and other prophets preceding Muhammad (Peace be upon them all). That command was: "Whoever allows their neighbour to go hungry, is not from amongst us."

'Muslim students and Islamic societies on campuses across the UK, out of love for the teaching of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), are embracing this command in a heartwarming display of unity and cohesion to ensure that nobody is left hungry for food, company or spirituality. 

'At FOSIS, we see excellent initiatives spanning the country, from Ramadan-inspired photography competitions to students providing much-needed services in collaboration with local mosques.

Ramadan Tent
Holy month: Joining a student society can be a great way to find support in your faith (Picture: The Ramadan Tent)

'Many students from around the country have found their Ramadan experiences enriched at university thanks to the support they have received from fellow students and the local community
things that are at the heart of the Islamic faith. 

'This is something FOSIS aims to promote throughout the academic year, by sharing experiences, knowledge and the things we sometimes forget to value.

'We want to ensure that campuses are places which nurture a generation that will go on to lead by enjoying with our neighbours what we love for ourselves.'

The Ramadan Tent

One student-led project which exemplifies this Ramadan spirit is the Ramadan Tent at SOAS, University of London.

The award-winning scheme is based in a tent that is set up a stone's throw from some of London's main universities during the month of Ramadan. It provides a space for Muslims and people of other faiths to attend lectures and access other activities, including help for the homeless and fast-breaking gatherings. It aims to break boundaries and bring together people from an array of backgrounds to share in the Ramadan experience.

The Ramadan Tent
Open invitation: Students of all backgrounds are welcome to the Ramadan Tent (Picture: The Ramadan Tent)

Omar Salha, the Ramadan Tent's main organiser, said: 'We have an incredible team of student committee members and volunteers who are passionate and dedicated to helping the project succeed, and serving their fellow students.

'For all the students involved, it has given them not only a close-knit community to celebrate Ramadan, but also a platform to express their faith and culture with the broader community.'

Meet the students

Nadzirah, from Malaysia, studying Chemistry at the University of Sheffield:

'The reason I love being here in the UK for Ramadan is that I'm now more open-minded, tolerant and have so much respect for others.

'I'm so grateful for having awesome housemates and friends, as we wake each other up for the pre-dawn meal so that nobody misses it, and we usually have a really simple meal compared to what we'd have back home in Malaysia.'

The Ramadan Tent
Shared experience: The Ramadan Tent is just one of many activities arranged to celebrate the holy month (Picture: The Ramadan Tent)

'Usually in Malaysia, most of the mosques do not just provide food for Iftar (the traditional fast-breaking meal at the end of the day) but also a 'Moreh Feast', which is like a supper after the night-time prayers and usually consists of light food such as fruit. 

'But in the UK, you can't even think of having an additional meal as you only have five hours between sunset and dawn!'

Hafsah, international student studying Engineering on placement at the University of Bristol:

'I was extremely thankful for the fact that there were Iftars organised every day near the University as I am sure it would have been a lot harder and more lonely to spend Ramadan by myself.'

Ramadan Tent
Community spirit: A big part of the work of FOSIS and projects linked to it is to do with helping others (Picture: The Ramadan Tent)

'It was great to see students that we normally don't get to meet such as postgraduate students and members of the local community.

'It was amazing to see the love that everyone had for each other and how quickly strong friendships formed in a space of few days.'

Mariam, from the UK, studying Dentistry at Cardiff University:

'My colleagues and peers are very understanding and considerate when I fast, which is a great source of support.

'I would describe fasting during university as challenging yet satisfying.'

Study support: FOSIS is linked to 115 student Islamic societies around the UK (Picture: FOSIS)

'As a dental student I see patients day in, day out. Most people don't notice I'm fasting as my clinical abilities thankfully remain unaffected apart from the odd yawn on a Friday afternoon.

'However, I do naturally feel exhausted after a day's work, and even more so when it's very difficult to get through the day without water in this lovely summer weather.'

Rudolph, a student from Germany who is not a Muslim:

'The Ramadan Tent is a great example of community spirit, people coming together and making friends regardless of their background – and on top of everything, the food is really nice!

'I remember being invited to Iftar by a Muslim family in Germany when I was younger, and was humbled by the culture of sharing. This is absolutely something I'd love to see more of.'

The Ramadan Tent
Fast food: You're likely to find traditional customs (and dishes) from around the world (Picture: The Ramadan Tent)

For more information about FOSIS and its work with ISocs and Muslim students visit fosis.org.uk or contact head.communications@fosis.org.uk.  

For more information about the Ramadan Tent, visit ramadantentproject.com.