Correction appended: This article originally quoted Kate MacEwen of Food Gathers as saying the money raised by Fast-a-thon would provide 1,000 meals. The money will fund 4,000 meals.
At exactly 7:28 p.m. yesterday, right at sundown, about 300 people gathered in West Quad’s Wedge Room bit into a dried date. For most of the group, the fruit was the first thing to pass through their lips since just after 6 that morning.
Muslims traditionally break their fast on dates during the holy month of Ramadan, when they don’t eat or drink from sunup until sundown. But for one night, non-Muslims fasted with them as part of a fundraiser sponsored by the Muslim Student Association.
During the event, called Fast-a-thon, students of all backgrounds pledge not to eat or drink from dawn to dusk for one day. Three hundred and seventy-seven non-Muslims registered to participate this year.
MSA asks local businesses and alumni to donate money, with all proceeds going to a local food bank. This year, the event raised about $1,300 for Food Gatherers, a food bank that serves Washtenaw County.
“You’ve provided food for about 1,000 meals,” Kate MacEwen, director of the annual fund for Food Gatherers, told the crowd. “That’s fantastic.”
LSA senior Sarah Jukaku, this year’s Fast-a-thon chair, said it was the largest sum ever raised for the food bank by a student organization.
Engineering freshman Kristen Hinkle, who isn’t a Muslim, said knowing her fasting would help a good cause made it easier to endure.
“I guess because I told myself I had to fast, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” she said. “I just had to tell myself that I was doing it for a good cause, and that was motivation.”
MSA President Yamaan Saadeh, an LSA senior, said fundraising isn’t the only goal of the program.
“One part of it is, by fasting from food and water, appreciating the privilege you have, you’re realizing what it’s like to not have food and water,” he said. “We’re hoping to share that with non-Muslims.”
Ramadan also involves abstaining from some undesirable habits, including swearing, arguing and thinking negative thoughts. Saadeh said applying those practices can help students in their daily lives, even after the holy month ends.
“It’s not just fasting from food and water — it’s also a spiritual exercise, as well. It’s supposed to bring positives, and building your self-control,” he said. “If you lie or you cheat or you steal or do something immoral, it takes away from your fast.”
Saadeh also said that sexual activity is prohibited during the fast.
LSA junior Brad Sisson, a non-Muslim student who participated in Fast-a-thon for the first time yesterday, said nixing the negatives were more difficult for him than not eating or drinking.
“For me, it’s basically a regular day. I mean, I don’t eat breakfast and I don’t usually eat until dinner,” he said. “Trying not to think negative thoughts and stuff like that, it’s really a challenge.”