In the midst of the Muslim month of Ramadan, about 200 participants in the Muslim Students Association’s Fast-A-Thon took some time yesterday to break the fast while raising money for a local charity, [Calvary Women’s Services](https://www.calvaryservices.org/).
“Ramadan is a time when Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset,” said Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplaincy director. “We try to use that time to think of the poor, think of the needy and share our wealth with those who are less fortunate.”
The ninth month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is traditionally a period of heightened religious observance for Muslims around the world. The yearly Fast-A-Thon invites students outside of the Muslim community to experience a one-day fast to benefit a local charity, according to Noreen Shaikh (COL ’12), the MSA social chair.
“University community members pledge to dedicate the day to the observance of Ramadan alongside the MSA,” Shaikh said. “Pledgees are then sponsored by local businesses and donors, who offer contributions on their behalf.”
Calvary, a D.C.-based shelter, offers temporary housing and support programs to impoverished women. In discussing the MSA’s choice of this charity, Hendi highlighted the common social mission of different faith traditions.
The day began with a Suhoor, or pre-dawn breakfast, provided by Michelle Siemietkowski, the director of residential ministry. Participants then abstained from food and drink for 14 hours in a day-long version of the Muslim Ramadan ritual fast.
“We feel the pangs of hunger every day [during the month of Ramadan], but it teaches us. It teaches us about self-restraint, it teaches us about hunger, and what it means to experience hunger,” MSA President Mariam Abu-Ali (COL ’10) said.
Their reward for successfully completing the fast was an Iftar, or evening meal to break the fast, enjoyed with MSA members and other fasters. It was organized by the MSA in collaboration with both the International Relations Club and the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition.
Possible rainfall prompted a decision to move the Iftar from Harbin Patio indoors to Riverside Lounge. The location change did not discourage more than 200 hungry fasters from enjoying a dinner of Afghan cuisine, however. In keeping with Muslim custom, many of the fasters ate a date before moving to the main course.
“Dates never tasted so good,” Nina Ravi (SFS ’12) said. “I appreciated the food much more after having avoided it for so long.”
In addition to celebrating Muslim culture, Fast-A-Thon brought different student groups together in support of each other – something Bridget O’Loughlin (SFS ’11), one of STAND’s co-presidents, said was meaningful for her.
“I think that student groups collaborating is great at Georgetown because there are so many diverse, different, talented individuals doing different things. So when you bring them together, it just makes your programs that much better and that much more special,” O’Loughlin said. “As STAND, we’re collaborating with the MSA because we do DarfurFAST in October, and they will hopefully be collaborating with us for that. Finding that common ground is great, and this is such a successful event that we are thrilled to help out.”
About 300 students pledged for the event and about 200, hailing from a variety of backgrounds, participated. Hendi emphasized Fast-A-Thon’s dual function as a means of both promoting interaction among students of diverse faiths and cultures and of giving back to those who need help.
“Fast-A-Thon is an attempt to bring people together to share what they have in common, to think about what they have in common, and to think about that, at some point in our lives, we all need to think about the less fortunate,” Hendi said.