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Celebrating Cultural Diversity and Supporting Students During Ramadan

Chaplain Nadim provided training and cooked meals along with East Side Executive Chef Jerry Suppa and the Halal NY staff in preparation for Ramadan.

Through a collaboration with the Islamic Society of Stony Brook University and Chaplain Sanaa Nadim, the Faculty Student Association (FSA) and CulinArt have been working to ensure that Muslim students have access to the meals they want to eat during Ramadan and at the times they need. 

Chaplain Nadim provided training and cooked meals along with East Side Executive Chef Jerry Suppa and the Halal NY staff in preparation for Ramadan.
Chaplain Nadim provided training and cooked meals along with East Side Executive Chef Jerry Suppa and the Halal NY staff in preparation for Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar where students observe the holy month by fasting from sunrise to sunset. It is a commemoration and a celebration of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an to Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) more than 1,442 years ago, in the city of Mecca. During this time, Muslims fast, abstain from pleasures and pray to become closer to God. It is also a time for families to gather and celebrate. When the sun sets, there is a communal meal called Iftar where you break your fast, usually with family or friends. Two nights a week, the dining team delivers Iftar meals to the Interfaith Chapel for the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) to distribute to their members. 

“MSA is an organization committed to making campus life easy for Muslims at Stony Brook and ensuring they have a community that fosters their spiritual well being,” explained Khadija Saad, President of the Muslim Students’ Association. “Many students look forward to breaking fast together here on campus because we are away from our families, our communities, and our support system, and these meals that Campus Dining prepares brings about a sense of community and camaraderie that would be missing without them.” 

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship. Muslims believe that Ramadan teaches them to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy for those who do not have the luxury of food and water, thus encouraging actions of generosity and almsgiving. It is important to Muslims to be mindful that God is aware of our mind, heart and actions, therefore, one must try to instill affection and peace for their fellow man, with the intention of embedding this in their character for the future. It is much more than the idea of abstaining from food.

The Faculty Student Association values their friendship with Chaplain Sanaa Nadim and recognizes the importance of providing accommodations for students who celebrate Ramadan. “I’ve been working with Chaplain Nadim and MSA for many years, and we are committed to providing authentic Halal meals and providing easy access to those foods during Ramadan,” stated Dawn Villacci, FSA Manager of Campus Dining. “By keeping an open dialogue we found that while some students seek more Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cuisines dishes during Ramadan, others want more American comfort foods in the variety of options offered.” 

Ramadan Menu Specials

Chaplain Nadim provided training and cooked meals along with East Side Executive Chef Jerry Suppa and the Halal NY staff in preparation for Ramadan. CulinArt team members developed weekly specials for Ramadan such as coconut curry chicken with basmati rice and vegetables, lamb kofta with warm naan bread, baby arugula and sliced red onions, healthy chicken shawarma bowl with baby spinach fattoush salad, feta cheese, roasted chickpeas and yogurt sauce and roasted eggplant, tomato and spiced ground lamb with basmati rice and lemon tahini. All specials include dates and milk. Muslims break their fast by eating one or three dates as was the practice of Prophet Mohammed who broke his fast with three dates and water. Dates and milk are also available at the campus convenience stores and at dine-in. Ramadan is well-known for the variety of sweets prepared and consumed during this holy month to satisfy the post Iftar sweet cravings. Halal NY desserts include rice pudding and gulab jamun. Halal NY at East Side Dining offers authentic cuisine from Islamic countries (Middle East, South Asian (sub-continent), Indonesia), NY Halal cart-style gyros as well as American comfort foods. “Our Muslim community at Stony Brook enjoys the unique retail concept ‘Halal NY’ which is a culmination of great efforts and collaboration between FSA and the Islamic Society,” asserts Chaplain Nadim.

Dining Hours for Ramadan Meals

Students observing Ramadan can speak with a dining manager at East Side or West Side if they would like to take continental breakfast items with them the night before. Dining hours at Halal NY have been adjusted to 2 pm to 9 pm through May 12. 

Halal NY is a food service program offered at Stony Brook University that began in 2011 through the cooperative efforts of the Chaplain of the Islamic Society and the Faculty Student Association. The program provides for the procurement, storage, preparation, display, service, and packaging of food under the standards and oversight provided by the Stony Brook University Islamic Chaplain Sanaa Nadim. FSA provides a separate kitchen area for the handling of halal foods, as well as separate cookware, utensils and serving area to prevent cross-contamination with haram (unlawful) food. The Halal standards of the program include purchasing Halal food products from trustworthy vendors, as well as following principles of the Qur’an including healthy cooking practices and avoiding unnecessary waste of food.

Halal food is guided by religious criteria that governs everything from how the animals destined to be eaten are fed and raised, to how they are slaughtered and prepared for consumption. 

MSA is an organization that serves the needs of Muslim students and their community. As the Muslim Chaplain for Stony Brook University’s Interfaith Center, Sister Sanaa built the Stony Brook Muslim Student Association and works tirelessly for its constructive growth, which was reflected by an American interfaith survey that noted Stony Brook University as having the largest Muslim Student Association in the nation. Her current agenda involves working with different religious and cultural organizations as well as private and public institutions to continue building bridges among different faith groups to positively enhance the image of Islam through unity and understanding.

“As a Chaplin, for many years I have gathered students, faculty and non-Muslim members on campus, to partake in the daily breaking of fast. It has been educational and unifying for all involved. Ramadan is not only a time for Muslims, but it is a chance to bring us all together,” explained Chaplain Nadim.

The end of Ramadan is marked with a celebration called Eid al-Fitr or the “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast” on May 12. Many Muslims attend Eid prayers at the mosque in order to pray evening prayer and supplemental prayers that are customary in Ramadan and then enjoy a large meal with friends and family. “We do this in one line, as one people. American-Muslims of diverse backgrounds, praying together,” stated Chaplain Nadim.

Over the years FSA has served thousands of students from around the world and their commitment and resolve resulted in a unifying concept through food service. “By celebrating the differences and similarities of our students, we can inspire an environment of inclusivity and remain focused on promoting multicultural programs, services, and learning experiences for all students,” explained Villacci.

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