Nearly 200 students, faculty and friends joined the Muslim Students of the University of Miami for their annual Fast-a-thon and dinner to break the fast last Thursday on the UC Patio.
The fast and celebration, held to observe Ramadan and raise money for the World Food Programme, a United Nations initiative to end hunger, offered UM students an opportunity to share different cultural perspectives as well as dinner.
“We are actually trying to get everyone involved, no matter their religion,” said junior Sophie Khokhawalla, co-chairperson of the event for MSUM. “Especially non-Muslim students.”
The fast of Ramadan requires that Muslims abstain from food and drink, including water, from dawn to dusk. One cannot swear, fight, take nutritional medicines or act in any intemperate manner. Muslims fast during Ramadan to gain a better understanding of the starving and the poor and become more grateful for their own blessings. The Fast-a-thon follows the same rules but is not limited to Muslim students.
The participants, Muslim and non-Muslim, came together to break their fast at 7:22 p.m., the exact time of the sunset on Thursday.
Fast-a-thon was first established seven years ago. Although it always takes place during the Islamic month of Ramadan, the actual dates vary from year to year because Islam uses a lunar calendar.
Students participating in the Fast-a-thon agree to fast during the day as a means of raising money through pledges to support the World Food Programme. The event’s motto sums up the purpose: “Fast for a day so someone less fortunate doesn’t have to.”
In addition to the celebratory dinner to break the fast, the event’s organizers also gave participants free, commemorative t-shirts.
“Students are getting excited because of the free t-shirts, you know?” Khokhawalla said, laughing. “But it’s more than that.”
This is the first year the organization received financial assistance from the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee. Those funds paid for the t-shirts and costs of the dinner. Local restaurants such as Lazeez Asian Cuisine, University Chicken Grill, Big Cheese Pizza, Maroosh Mediterranean Restaurant and many others donated food. In addition, the restaurants and other supporters donated money to the World Food Programme for every student involved. Over 300 people signed up for the fast.
Freshman Fiorella Roversi arrived early and brought her younger sister with her. Roversi is not Muslim, but became interested in the event when approached by other students.
“They stopped me in the hall and asked if I wanted to stop world hunger,” Roversi said. “I mean, of course! Who wouldn’t? So I had to sign up. The hardest part was not being able to drink water – you couldn’t even gargle!”
Another participant, Mohame Elawa, a frequent community supporter of the organization and the fight against hunger, was very impressed by the preparation and organization that went into the UM event.
“[It was] Much better than [Florida International University’s],” Elawa said.
As the participants lined up to eat, rain started falling. No one was deterred, however. They just grabbed their plates and went inside to continue the celebration.
“People had a good time and the rain ultimately wasn’t a problem,” said junior Fara Dosani, a co-chair of the event. “It reflected this nice sense of community, which was great because that is one of the objectives of fasting: to bring people together through this single commonality that they shared for the day.”