Observing Ramadan in Unprecedented Times

photo of night sky with moon and star
The UK Muslim Student Association and the Muslim Affinity Group of employees will offer opportunities for students, faculty and staff to virtually engage with — and give back to — their community in observance of Ramadan.

In a recent email to campus, President Capilouto reminded us that the University of Kentucky is home to many faiths, cultures, identities and beliefs.

And during this season of rejuvenation and growth, religious communities around the world are having to observe their traditions apart from their family and friends, as well as their traditional places of worship due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

These are uncertain and stressful times, which makes separating — rather than congregating — all the more difficult. Still, we are finding ways to connect with our communities, and honor our faiths and religious traditions, while remaining physically distant.

This Friday marks the beginning of the month-long observance of Ramadan, a time of giving, fasting, prayer and community for Muslims all around the world. Like so many religious observances, Ramadan will look much different in 2020.

The University of Kentucky has a vibrant Muslim population, with students, faculty and staff supporting each other and our community.

While they will not be able to go to the mosque and spend time (in-person) with their community, campus and Muslim leaders at UK want to remind others that many opportunities exist for gathering, sharing and giving virtually, while also having time for self-reflection and improving relations with those they live amongst during this year's Ramadan.

Ibraheem Murtaza, president of the UK Muslim Student Association (MSA), shared what Ramadan means to him.

"Ramadan is a time where we can practice bettering our spiritual connection with God, and a time when we can increase our good deeds so that we can better our faith as a whole," Murtaza said. "Fasting every day for the sake of God, increasing the amount of daily worshipping, giving more and helping the needy, and spending wholesome time with family and friends is what Ramadan looks like for me."

During these unprecedented times, the university, in collaboration with the MSA and the Muslim Affinity Group of UK employees, will offer special opportunities for students, faculty and staff to virtually engage with — and give back to — their community in observance of Ramadan.

"Ramadan is a spiritual month with heightened devotion and self-improvement," said Syed Ali, assistant professor of anesthesiology and chair of the Muslim Affinity Group. "With the current social distance measures, we are preparing for an unavoidable adjustment in practices, such as canceled social events, and suspended daily congregational prayers and weekly Friday prayer services. However, as in the past, thoughts and feelings will be renewed and strengthened during this spiritual month."

This year’s UK Ramadan Observance events, titled "Fast for Humanity," will take place April 23-24, marking the beginning of Ramadan. Registration for the events is required.

  • An online panel discussion, "The Wisdom and Meaning of Fasting," will occur from 7-8 p.m. Thursday, April 23. The panel will feature Aiyub Palmer, UK professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies; Hadeel Abdallah, UK alumna and Rhodes scholar; and moderator Amani Shalash, a current UK MSA board member. The panel will highlight Ramadan traditions and experiences and include remarks from Dr. Humza Qureshi, a UK graduate and medical resident, about how he will experience Ramadan while serving on the front-line during the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • At 7:45 p.m. Friday, April 24, there will be a day-long fast-a-thon, with a break-fast event, "Sharing Your Experience of Fasting: Breaking of the Fast."

These events will provide a unique opportunity to learn from each other while also building bridges across all walks of life.

"To have university and local events focused on Ramadan is very important and appreciated by the Muslim community," Murtaza said. "These events benefit both Muslims and non-Muslims: Muslims are able to come together and are reminded of the virtues of Ramadan, and non-Muslims are able to learn about Ramadan and how Muslims around them are participating in this month. These events allow everyone to come together to help the community and those in need as well."

As part of the Ramadan tradition of charitable giving, the MSA and Muslim Affinity Group are also encouraging community members who would like to give to donate to UK's Basic Needs and Persistence Fund, which is supporting students who are struggling during the pandemic.

“Ramadan is an opportunity for us all to focus on our faith, the importance of caring for others and being thankful," said Don Witt, assistant vice president for philanthropy. "It is also a time when we can support those in need — especially our UK students who may be impacted by the pandemic. The UK Basic Needs and Persistence Fund is a great way for individuals to contribute to the success and well-being of the UK student community. The is a time of collaboration and represents the best of the University of Kentucky.”

For additional information and registration, please visit the UK Martin Luther King Center's Interfaith website at or the MSA website at

To donate to the UK Basic Needs and Persistence Fund, visit

These events and others hosted by UK's Office for Institutional Diversity and units from across campus are a continuation of a yearlong commemoration of 70 years of integration at UK. Throughout the 2019-20 academic year, the university has featured a series of events, academic courses and special presentations that allow us to reflect on the legacy of Lyman T. Johnson and continue to carry out the conversations he started 70 years ago. 

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.