Fast-a-thon preparation uncovers its true meaning

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Manal Salim

Art by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi
When the bell finally rings Thursday, Dec. 6 to signal lunch, many students will be able to silence their stomach’s hungry rumbles, while others will be fasting.
The annual Fast-a-thon, hosted by the Muslim Student Union (MSU), will give RBHS students the opportunity to restrain from eating from the moment the sun rises until it finally sets into the horizon. To nourish the famished students after a long day of fasting, MSU will provide a free dinner at 4:30 p.m. including various cultural dishes and meals cooked specifically for those fasting for the event.
After months of preparing for the activity, MSU inter-club council representative sophomore Humera Lodhi described the value of hosting the unique activity at school. Fasting is one of the five pillars, or foundation principles of faith, in Islam, as Muslims are required to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, she said. The involvement of RBHS students in this religious activity allows students to familiarize themselves with something they may have not been typically used to, Lodhi said.
“I think [the Fast-a-thon] is a fun way to get everyone involved in an activity,” Lodhi said. “It shows people about an important part of Islam. A lot of people know Muslims fast, but they don’t understand why or how it feels like, so this lets everyone experience it.”
Hoping to allow her non-Muslim friends to experience the act of fasting, Lodhi encouraged fellow sophomore Sophie Whyte to try out the event. After discovering the event on Facebook the other day and hearing a class announcement about Fast-a-thon, Whyte decided she would attend.
“Even if you just try it, I think it’s a good experience and can help you realize what many others go through,” Whyte said. “It will also be fun to break the fast together with your friends and peers.”
Besides encouraging their friends to consider coming to the Fast-a-thon, MSU members and officers have been preparing food, advertising, and organizing everything for Thursday. As an officer, Lodhi has been especially involved in making sure everything for the event irons out smoothly.
“I’m making food for the fast-a-thon, and I’ll be putting up flyers. I’m an officer, so I have been helping to plan it,” Lodhi said. “I contribute because I think it’s a great way of reaching out and becoming part of the Rock Bridge community.”
Not only do the MSU officers organize for the Fast-a-thon, but members such as Duha Shebib have their cooking schedules booked for the day as well. Shebib described how her mom traditionally cooks dishes for the iftar, the Arabic word that refers to the evening meal for breaking the fast.
“The event will host different cultural foods,” Shebib said, “and food is always a perk after a long day of fasting.”
Despite the food incentive some students may use as their goal to make it through the day filled with frequent hunger pangs, Whyte uncovers the true reason why she will make the effort to fast during the extensive day. Whyte  said the Fast-a-thon helps show students what things to be thankful for and she wants to support the message that the Fast-a-thon provides.
“The Fast-a-thon is meant to show students just a bit of what it is like for the millions of people world-wide who suffer from hunger every single day,” Whyte said. “People often forget how lucky they are to have clean water and food, not to mention the countless other things most students have such as cars, phones, etc. The Fast-a-thon also lets people see what it is like for Muslims, or others, who fast for religious reasons. I think it will help open the eyes of many students, even if it’s just for a day.”
As an MSU member and a Muslim herself, Shebib sees the meaning behind the Fast-a-thon similar to the way Whyte sees it, although from a slightly different perspective. Rather than wanting to experience the ways of another, Shebib hopes students who fast will have the opportunity to finally understand unique characteristics of her beliefs and religion.
“I hope [the Fast-a-thon] will continue because it not only lets students live in the shoes of their Muslim peers for a day, but it teaches patience and appreciation for the food we have that many others don’t,” Shebib said. “I think the benefit of the Fast-a-thon is that students from Rock Bridge who are curious about Islam can learn about it as well as challenge themselves by fasting if they want.”
Different from the perspectives of both Whyte and Shebib, Lodhi said the greatest benefit of the event is the communally enriching aspect it provides for the RBHS community.
“I feel like, whether or not you have a religion, or whether or not you’re searching for a religion, everyone should at least know about different religions. They should be open and accepting to other’s ideas, even if they have different beliefs,” Lodhi said. “The Fast-a-thon brings people together, and it’s a good way to learn new things about a different religion and have fun while you’re learning. The Fast-a-thon helps bring people together and helps make them more accepting and open-minded.”
Although the thought of abstaining from their mouth-watering meals may discourage some RBHS students from participating in the Fast-a-thon, Shebib suggests that students strive to remember to not hit the snooze button and should get up early to eat before sunrise. Shebib also recommended that students know that they don’t have to fast all day and should probably set a simple goal for themselves. And according to Lodhi, any troubles or hardships faced during the day of fasting will all be worth it in the end for the following three reasons.
“First, it’s a new experience, and everyone, if they have the opportunity, should attend just to see what it’s like. Second, it’s an easy and fun way to broaden one’s horizons and just meet with new people. Third, there’s free food. And who doesn’t want free food? You get to try delicious, exotic foods for free,” Lodhi said. “And it’s only one day, for maybe an hour or two. So why not come?”
By Manal Salim 
Are you going to try it? Or do you fast for other religious reasons? What is your experience like?