Fast-a-Thon shows glimpse of Ramadan

As part of Hunger Awareness Week, the Muslim Student Association sponsored a Ramadan-inspired Fast-a-Thon on Wednesday. Those who participated were non-Muslims and fasted from sunrise to sunset to help the MSA raise money for a local charity. The event ended with a dinner at sunset in Phyllis P. Marshall Center, Room 270.

MSA President Aliyah O’Keeffe said the event was inspired by the Muslim month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the 30-day religious observance when Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours and abstain from sexual activities for a variety of reasons, including cleansing of the spirit. Ramadan occurs in the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, which follows the lunar cycles.

“Ramadan does not always occur during the same month,” O’Keeffe said. “So next year, it may not occur during November.

“During the ninth month, God commands (Muslims) to not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. When (Muslims) are hungry and thirsty, we are better able to put ourselves in the right frame of mind, and that serves as a launching point for the rest of the year.”

After sunset, Istar (the Arabic word for breakfast), a nighttime feast, takes place. The free food offered at mosques is offered every night to strengthen family and community ties. Likewise, special prayers are said at that time also, O’Keeffe said.

While the Fast-a-Thon makes its first appearance at USF this year, the event has existed at other universities throughout the country for years, said O’Keeffe. Making its debut in Tennessee, the Fast-a-Thon spread to other MSAs nationwide.

This year, O’Keeffe said, the Fast-a-Thon at USF intends on raising money to donate to a food pantry affiliated with a Muslim mosque.

“We challenge non-Muslims to participate in a day of our Ramadan month and fast with us. This is what we’re doing every day for 30 days,” she said.

The participants in the Fast-a-Thon went without food, drinks or novelties, such as chewing gum or candy, from sunrise to sunset Wednesday. At sunset, MSA sponsored a dinner culminating the fast.

Gladys Rivera, a student who participated in the event, said she wanted to know what her friend Rehana Hakeem goes through during Ramadan.

“I did it because it was a good experience to learn how to relate to my friends who are Muslim,” Rivera said. “I have a newfound respect for what they go through. It was hard to fast for a whole day.”

Community sponsors, both small businesses and individual benefactors, donated money to the event for every non-Muslim that made the sacrifice.

“We want to give a cash donation to the Food Pantry, and the Fast-a-Thon is making this possible,” O’Keeffe said.

O’Keeffe added that about 60 non-Muslim students participated in the Fast-A-Thon and MSA raised about $800 for the Food Pantry.