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Breaking the Fast

Shakeela Najjar shares her family’s tradition

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In the video above, join Shakeela Najaar (CAS’12) and her family during a holy time of the year.

A pink and blue sky spreads over the rooftops of a working class New Bedford neighborhood at sunset. The cry “Allahu Akabar,” God is great, rises from speakers beside a desktop computer, the opening line of adhān, the Islamic call to prayer.

When Shakeela Najjar and her family hear that call, they observe the evening Maghrib prayer together, and break their daylong fast in celebration of Ramadan, a Muslim holiday observed this year from August 11 until September 9.

From sunup until sundown, Najjar (CAS’12) and her family refrain from eating and drinking. “Most people find it shocking when I tell them I don’t even drink water during the fast,” she says. Because Ramadan follows the Islamic lunar calendar, the holiday rotates through the seasons, beginning 11 days earlier this year than last. “Fasting is harder,” she says, “because the days are longer, and that means more time without food.”

But hunger pangs are not the holiday’s deeper challenge. “I’m not just giving up food to feel hungry; I’m giving it up for a reason,” says Najjar. “I’m making myself remember God more often. Having discipline to do that is the real struggle.”

Najjar is joining other Muslim students at Boston University celebrating Ramadan at school as the new semester begins. For the observance, the Islamic Society of Boston University (ISBU) has organized group dinners and prayers on campus.

From Sunday, August 29, through Thursday, September 9, the ISBU breaks fast with Iftaar dinners from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the private dining room in Claflin Hall. Evening Taraweeh prayers are scheduled from Thursday, September 2, through September 9, beginning at 9 p.m., at the George Sherman Union, Room 242. Email the ISBU (isbuact@gmail.com) with questions.

“Ramadan refocuses us spiritually,” says Najjar. “It brings Muslims together to worship God, and gives our lives purpose.”

In celebration of the end of Ramadan, the ISBU will host its annual Eid dinner on Sunday, October 17, in Metcalf Hall, with food and a guest speaker. The event is free and open to all members of the Boston University community.

In the holiday’s spirit, Najjar shares two of her mom’s traditional recipes:

Yogurt Lassi

Ingredients:
3 cups plain yogurt
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon
1 cup water
ice cubes

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients to blender.
  2. Liquefy until smooth.

Yields 4-6 cups

Dal Puri

Ingredients for Dal:
½ cup lentils
½ cup water
¼ tsp. salt (or as preferred)
1 tsp. onion
¼ tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cilantro
½ tsp. crushed pepper

Ingredients for Puri:
1 1/2 cups sifted flour, plus extra for dusting surface when rolling out dough
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/3 – 2/3 cup water
3 cups vegetable oil for frying

Directions

  1. Boil lentils in water with onion and ginger until the water evaporates completely.
  2. Combine remaining dal ingredients: salt, cilantro, and crushed pepper.
  3. Mash lentils with combined dal spices.
  4. Set aside mashed lentils to use as filling for puri.
  5. Add oil to frying pan, turn up heat to medium.
  6. Combine flour, salt, melted butter and water, and knead into a dough.
  7. Separate dough into 12 evenly portioned balls.
  8. Create pockets in the dough.
  9. Distribute the dal evenly, filling in the pockets.
  10. Close the balls, and roll them gently on a lightly floured surface until flattened (avoid tearing the dough).
  11. Place the flattened dough into a frying pan with oil.
  12. Turn dough occasionally.
  13. Remove from oil when dough has expanded and turned a light brown color.
  14. Set dal puri portions on a plate lined with paper towels.

Creates 12 servings

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

This story originally ran September 8, 2009.

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