‘I’m looking forward to Eid’

Studying and fasting at the same time: does that work? Certainly, say the RUG students at brand new Islamic association Deen. After sunset, they get together to share a meal.
By Eva van Renssen / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

At a quarter to nine in the evening, the mosque at the Korreweg is filling up. Men go in through one entrance, women through another. They will be enjoying the Ramadan meal separately.

Inside, approximately thirty women sit at long tables decked out with food. They talk quietly but cheerfully. Several women flit back and forth between the kitchen and the tables. You wouldn’t know it, but these women haven’t eaten a single thing all day. The students here are observing Ramadan, and they will not break fast until the sun has set.

Their meal is provided by Islamic student association Deen and Ummah Care Network, a Muslim support organisation. The meal is not just for students; other Groningen Muslims who would otherwise be alone are also welcome.


Students Ilaaf and Kevser love the initiative of the community Ramadan meal, the Iftar. They don’t know each other, but they clicked immediately. Attendees hail from various cultural backgrounds, including Turkish, Iraqi, and Afghan. The fact that everyone here observes Ramadan makes the cultural differences irrelevant.

The girls have been observing Ramadan since they were teenagers. Kevser: ‘As a child you want to be involved in everything. Everything is focused on it. Even characters in Arabic television series are currently fasting.’

What does fasting feel like? ‘You get used to it. Your biological clock adapts’, the girls agree. ‘My life takes place at night, and I sleep during the day’, says Ilaaf. ‘But this last week is getting difficult. I’m looking forward to Eid.’

Studying and fasting are perfectly compatible, says a student of European languages and cultures. ‘Last year I fasted during exams. I got some of my highest grades ever. You become extraordinarily focused. You feel more connected to your faith, so you feel invigorated.’

‘Yes, food!’

A song drifts from the speakers around the room: the Athan. It’s a call to prayer, and also a signal that Muslims are allowed to break their fast. One of the girls cautiously opens a bottle of water. ‘She wouldn’t hold back that much at home’, Ilaaf jokes. ‘Then we’re like: “Yes, food!”.’

They take a few bites. Then they leave all the goodies behind to kneel on the soft carpet in the prayer room. The women take their time praying, their synchronised movements radiating unity and fellowship.

After prayers, everyone returns to the puff pastries, salads, soups, and cake. A few women share photos on social media, laughing together.

Kevser and Ilaaf talk about their experience with Mariam, a Dutch medical student, who has joined them at their table. They enjoy spending time with their Dutch friends. They feel that the people of Groningen are open-minded and try their best to take their faith into account. ‘Someone asked me if it was okay if he ate something in front of me during Ramadan’, says Kevser. ‘I don’t even notice when people around me are eating, but it was really considerate of him.’

Broaden your horizons

Ilaaf mainly grew up around Muslims, she says, which is probably why she now feels the need to broaden her horizons by hanging out with Dutch girls. Mariam mainly grew up around Dutch people, so now she specifically seeks out the company of other Muslims. ‘I get along great with my friends from university, but I do feel different, because we have different attitudes towards certain things, like men and alcohol.’

The women agree: spotting another girl with a headscarf creates an immediate bond. And so they’re happy to have met fellow Muslims. Wafia, one of the event’s organisers, says this was the initiative’s objective: to find each other and combat loneliness among Muslim students.

Wafia and three others make up the first board of the brand new Islamic student association, Deen. Ramadan was the perfect time to host their first event. ‘This way people can start to get to know us before we truly kick off in September.’


De spelregels voor reageren: blijf on topic, geen herhalingen, geen URLs, geen haatspraak en beledigingen. / The rules for commenting: stay on topic, don't repeat yourself, no URLs, no hate speech or insults.


0 Reacties
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments