A crowd of silent fasters listened to prayers in the dimly lit UC Ballrooms on Tuesday night during the breaking-of-the-fast dinner on this day in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The vast majority of the crowd, however, was not Muslim.
The dinner was a culmination of the third annual “Fast-a-thon” programmed by the Islamic Society at the University of Miami [ISUM].
According to Wajiha Akhtar, ISUM’s public relations chair, local businesses pledged to donate one dollar to The Daily Bread Food Bank, a local non-profit food bank, for each non-Muslim student, staff or faculty member who pledged to go hungry for one day.
The event raised $2,100, with over 460 participants. The numbers beat last year’s event, which raised less than $2,000 with about 300 participants, Akhtar said.
Minal Ahson, Fast-a-thon chair and founder of the event at UM, said that she hoped participants would learn something from the experience of fasting.
“Hopefully they will learn about the problem of hunger here in Miami and around the world and understand how and why Muslims observe fasting,” Ahson said.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam
33 million people in the U.S. cannot afford food
Over $2,000 was raised for the Fast-a-thon, which will provide over 12,000 meals for those who need it
Student Government President Vance Aloupis remarked on how the event made him feel as a participant.
“Fasting is a cleansing experience,” Aloupis said. “It’s great to see how many people fasted – to think that they spent their entire day without food just to feed others is twonderful.”
Akhtar said that every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed.
“It is regarded principally as a method of self-purification,” Akhtar said. “While fasting we gain sympathy for those who are hungry as well as growth within our spiritual life.”
Yadira Alonso, a junior who participated in the Fast-a-thon, felt the impact of the fast.
“I don’t know how to describe it really, but I feel like I’m in a different state of mind,” Alonso said. “It’s a spiritual feeling.”
According to Ahson, the Fast-a-thon began at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2001.
“They decided to share the idea and make it a national event the following year, Ramadan 2002,” Ahson said. “That year, we found out about it and decided to host the event here at UM.”
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