Ramadan Fast-A-Thon Unites Students
October 20, 2005 10:41 AM
On Wednesday, Oct. 19, a happily starving crowd filled SF State’s Jack Adams’ Hall at sundown. About 350 students and faculty joined the Muslim Student Association and the Muslim Women’s Student Association to spend a day without food and water.
For the third year SF State, together with about a hundred colleges and universities around the country, hosted a Fast-A-Thon, inviting non-Muslims to experience a whole day of fasting to raise money to feed those in need and gain a better understanding of Ramadan.
The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which this year has started on Oct. 4 and will end on Nov. 3, is believed to be the time when the Prophet Muhammad began to receive God’s revelations of the Quran.
For 30 days Muslims renounce food, water and sexual relations from dusk to dawn. “On a deeper level,” MBA student Vendula Sadreddin said, “fasting not only involves the stomach, but also the eyes, the ears, the tongue, and even the mind. Fasting is refraining from all things which take away from the remembrance of God.”
At 6.30 p.m. Abdul-Rahman Taleb-Agha, MSA president, said a prayer ending the fast and, according to tradition, the shaky and pale guests were treated to dates and water. A sumptuous Indian and Arabic dinner offered by local sponsors followed. After fasting for the first time, Associated Students Inc. President Chris Jackson shared with the crowd his “overwhelming feel of joy” for being allowed to eat again.
About 250 non-Muslim students pledged to fast because they were “hungry for change.” Sociology major Loubna Qutami, a Greek-Orthodox, was one of them. “I wanted to show our Muslim brothers and sisters at SF State,” she said, “that we understand and appreciate their culture and their religion and that we stand in solidarity with them in their right to preserve it.”
After experiencing for one day what Muslims choose to do for a whole month, many students said that they have a new appreciation and respect for their strong will. Sophia Olkhova, a 15-year-old student at San Francisco School of the Arts, said that fasting was more tiring than she thought it would be, but enjoyed the experience. “It makes you appreciate more the food instead of gobbling it like everyday and you feel grateful when you eat,” she said.
For each pledge, sponsoring businesses donated money, this year directed to the non-profit Hidaya Foundation and its relief operations to earthquake victims in Pakistan. The event helped raise more than $6,000, which was more than double that of last year, according to organizers. Charity is one of the five pillars of Islam and even more important during Ramadan, Taleb-Agha explained. Sharing food is also an Islamic custom.
“It’s a time to be aware about how people around you feel,” 18-year-old law major Mokhtar Alkhansali said. “If you’re hungry,” he said, “you know how homeless feel every day.”
Salam Hassan, a Computer Engineering major who moved from native Iraq to San Francisco four months ago to study, said that it’s been a real shock to see the amount of poor people in San Francisco. “I couldn’t have imagined that in the most wonderful city in the world, where 80 percent of the stores are restaurants, there are people who can’t eat,” he said.
For Hassan the gathering on campus was particularly special. “This is the first year that I spent Ramadan outside my country and it’s hard because in the Middle East this is a time when families have to be together.” But being here has some positive aspects, he said. “Compared to Iraq, where temperatures can be 140 (degrees) sometimes while you’re not having food and water, fasting in San Francisco is like a nice picnic!”
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