Two Indonesian female students studying in different parts of the world, explained the meaning and experience of Ramadan for them this year. Apart from missing the atmosphere, food and snacks typical of their hometown, the two mothers who finished their studies with their families are still grateful, able to carry out fasting worship quietly and solemnly despite facing limitations in the midst of the pandemic.
“AlhamdullilahRamadan brings blessings,” said Cahya Hanivah Yunizar, who was celebrating her second Ramadan in Twin City, Minnesota.
For the first year student of the doctoral program at the University of Minnesota, the blessing of Ramadan was in the form of a COVID-19 vaccination, which she received along with several other Indonesian Muslim students there.
Light and Muslims in the US this year are fasting in the spring. The average temperature ranges from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit or 14 to 24 degrees Celsius and fasting is about 15 to 16 hours per day.
Another experience of Pratiwi Utami. This doctoral student at Monash University fasts more often during winter in Australia, where fasting is not as long as in Indonesia. Currently, Australia is in autumn, where the weather is also starting to cool.
“Because the cold doesn’t feel so strong, Alhamdulillah, then I don’t feel so tired or weak because of the heat,” said Pratiwi.
Ramadan in other countries for Cahya and Pratiwi is certainly different from in Indonesia. The two doctoral students both yearn for Indonesian specialties and hometown snacks that only appear during the fasting month.
Cahya is lucky because, “It’s easy for me to find ingredients for typical Ramadan foods at the supermarket or the nearest Asian shop in St. Paul or Minneapolis, the heart of Minnesota, such as banana compote, dates, fruit ice with coco pandan syrup to various kinds of fried foods for takjil.”
In Australia, Pratiwi also misses the call to prayer from the mosque, the sound of people reading the Koran or remembrance. The mother, who has fasted for almost seven years in the land of the four seasons, reminisces about fasting in Indonesia.
“When Ramadan there are more people reading the Koran, there are more people who make dhikr and pray, use loudspeakers and can be heard everywhere,” he said.
However, as minorities in other countries, the two mothers who are currently completing their studies with their families are still grateful, able to carry out their fasting worship quietly and solemnly despite facing limitations.
Pratiwi herself thinks that Ramadan fasting is a private matter, not for people to know. “There is no evocative atmosphere during Ramadan so that we ourselves are moved to inspire ourselves, the spirit to fast. Although maybe not many friends fast in Australia.”
During Ramadan in Minnesota, Cahya was also grateful for the affordable facilities and easily accessible sources of information with other Muslims. The pandemic has not prevented hundreds of thousands of Muslims, the majority of whom are from Somalia, in the state from offering Friday prayers or holding recitations in mosques or community gathering halls. Since February 2021, worship activities must be scheduled in advance by complying with health protocols.
“Important announcements regarding worship during Ramadan, activity information and scheduling details can be easily accessed online through websites, mailing lists or community communication networks,” said Cahya.
To VOA, Cahya revealed that the Muslim community network in Minnesota, through imams and community initiators, has also distributed thousands of COVID-19 vaccines rationed specifically to minority populations, including one-shot Johnson & Johnson products.
Together with several other fellow Indonesian Muslim students, Cahya hopes that all Muslims in Minnesota have been vaccinated during Ramadan so that they can carry out their worship more quietly.
Meanwhile in Australia, Pratiwi has an additional task: explaining the meaning of fasting to her child who faces a big challenge during lunch time at school. His son, who is still in the 4th grade of elementary school, along with several of his Muslim friends are training to survive, honing their strength and determination to continue to worship according to religious teachings, regardless of the trials and challenges that are being faced. [mg/uh]