Just before sunset on Monday evening, a group of friends and Utah State University students gathered at a pavilion in the grassy community area of Aggie Village.
As bright orange and purple light colored the sky, one woman sat out dishes of food — fruit, lamb, chicken, rice.
Another individual watched his phone. When the time read 8:30 p.m., dried dates were passed around to everyone in attendance. This gesture marked the breaking of the fast for the first Ramadan dinner hosted by the USU Muslim Students Club.
“When you are out of your country, you want someone to be around you that can make you feel like you are within a community with the same beliefs,” said Moazzam Rind, a USU master’s student and club secretary.
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan began on Sunday evening. During Ramadan, Muslims fast, meaning they do not eat or drink anything, from sunrise to sunset.
In the evening, they break their fast with a meal referred to as “iftar.” Because the month is a time of celebration, meals are meant to be shared with family, friends and community members.
Rind is one of many Muslim students who are spending this important time far away from home. A few months ago, he and other students decided to form a club to create a place of community for Muslim students. Club members also want to focus on community outreach.
“We want to go and talk to different communities and we want to learn what they believe and why they believe,” Rind said. “Understanding each other is a very good way to build a society instead of just living isolated. … If you don’t know each other, you always have fear.”
Jack Schmidt is one of Rind’s professors at Utah State and attended Monday’s meal. Schmidt said although he has traveled in Muslim countries and taught Muslim students, he is not very familiar with the faith’s traditions.
The dinners are “a great gesture to the community,” Schmidt said. “There need to be more interfaith events, particularly in these tough times in this country.”
Schmidt also said it is important for faculty and students to get to know one another as people.
“We have to find the common good in each of us. We have to find the things that join us together, not the things that separate us, and we need to understand each other,” Schmidt said.
Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar and lasts for a month. The Muslim Students Club has received donations and other resources to host dinners until Sunday.
These meals are free and open to the public and will be at 8:30 p.m. at the pavilion behind the Aggie Village Community Center.
More information and a registration link can be found on the USUSA Muslim Students Club Facebook page.