Muslims across America will break their month-long fast in observance of Ramadan on Thursday. In commemoration of the end of the holy month, the Muslim Students Association held a Fast-A-Thon Monday to help the needy and come together as a community.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year. It begins and ends on different days each year, based on a lunar cycle.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day and only eat before dawn and after dusk.
Danya Shakfeh, a student at USF who volunteered to help with the Fast-A-Thon, said that Ramadan is a holy month, not a holiday. She also said that the real holiday is Eid ul-Fitr, which ends the fast on Thursday.
Dell deChant, an instructor for the department of religious studies, said that Ramadan is historically based on the time that Muhammad spent away from society in order to strengthen his faith through reflection and prayer before the angel Gabriel visited him.
According to Shakfeh, though, there is not just one story that embodies the reason Muslims observe Ramadan. She said that fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, the practices Muslims use to strengthen their faith. The other pillars are testimony of faith, giving alms to the poor, prayer and pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Fast-A-Thon was held to support a food pantry that feeds sixty to seventy families a week, according to Shakfeh. She also said that it helped to bring Muslims and non-Muslims on campus together.
“(This kind of activity) can help build bonds,” she said. “We want to reach out to the community.”
DeChant said that the best way for students to learn more about different religions is to spend time with the people who practice those religions.
“It’s to an individual’s advantage to learn more about other religious traditions,” deChant said. “In a diverse culture like America’s, we should all try a little bit to learn about other traditions.”
He also said that Ramadan is a good opportunity for cultural sharing because it is now widely recognized in American society.
Shakfeh said that she wants to share her faith with others because of the misconceptions many Americans believe about Muslims.
“The Fast-A-Thon reminds the people who aren’t Muslim that we believe in controlling ourselves and our desires,” Shakfeh said. “It helps to counter the image of this as a fanatical religion.”
Shakfeh said that the experience of Ramadan should help non-Muslims become more mindful.
“I see a lot of food being thrown away,” Shakfeh said. “I wish people were more aware of what it’s like to not eat for a day. It would make people more aware. This month might open their eyes to poverty.”