From sunrise to sunset yesterday, more than 100 non-Muslim
students gave up food and water as they participated in the Muslim
Students’ Association’s third annual Fast-A-Thon.

Participants not only raised money for the Ann Arbor Food
Gatherers, who donate food throughout the community, but also
caught a glimpse of the value of fasting in the Islamic holiday of
Ramadan, when Muslims believe their holy book the Quran was
revealed to the prophet Muhammed.

As participants in the Fast-A-Thon, non-Muslim students observed
the holy month for one day, in an attempt to both raise their
awareness about hunger in the United States and combat
misconceptions about the holiday.

Fast-A-Thon co-chair Zeenah Khader said through fasting,
non-Muslim students could discover the reality of both issues.

“It gives students a day of purification and also lets
students discover how those in need feel about having no
food,” she said.

Local businesses also donated funds to the Ann Arbor Food
Gatherers for every non-Muslim who fasted.

The students’ sacrifices came with another reward, though.
Once sun set yesterday, non-Muslim and Muslim students gathered in
the Wedge Room of West Quad, ending their fast for the day by
feasting on donated Arabic food and pepperoni pizzas.

Word spread quickly about this year’s Fast-A-Thon, with
about 180 non-Muslim students registering for the event, Khader
said. Non-Muslim students who participated in the event last year
encouraged their friends to fast, while at the same time interest
about the Islamic faith sparked some non-Muslim students to get
involved, she added.

A day of fasting was easy for many students, but the grumblings
of an empty stomach still exhausted some, both compelling them to
appreciate the simpler things and allowing them to understand
Muslims’ devotions to their faith.

Having to forgo her Diet Coke, LSA senior Kelly Holden said
setting aside her staple soft drink was hard to bear, but the cause
was worth it and reminded her that others have made sacrifices for
her. She also said the experience opened her eyes to the
perspective of Muslims who will fast for the month, which started
Oct. 15 and ends Nov. 14.

“If I were doing this as a way to worship my faith, I
wouldn’t think of it as starvation. I wouldn’t think
about food because it’s about your faith, and the difficulty
of fasting allows you to show that faith,” she said.

Realizing that fasting does not equate to starvation was a key
message of the event, LSA freshman Rashad Albeiruti said. Just like
non-Muslim students fasting for charity, Muslim students have the
same motivation when fasting for their faith, he said.

“Fasting is much more than about not eating food.
It’s a form of discipline, a spirituality, a type of
mentality. … You often hear about that, but here
(non-Muslims) can experience it and have that appreciation,”
Albeiruti said.

But it’s not just the fast that commemorates Ramadan
— it’s also the feast. Assembling both Muslim and
non-Muslim, Khader said perhaps the greatest facet of Fast-A-Thon
comes from how people of different ethnic and religious groups can
gather and dine together.

“It’s an honor to have others come and it brings a
sense of community,” she said.

The Michigan Daily and the South Asian Awareness Network
co-sponsored the event.

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