UB Muslim Students Association hosts Fast-a-Thon

MSA aims to encourage empathy through fasting


For those whose religion doesn’t require them to fast, it can seem like a daunting task – electing not to eat for an entire day sounds uncomfortable and difficult.

The Muslim Students Association (MSA) is hosting its first outreach-based event, called a Fast-a-Thon, in hopes of creating solidarity within the wider UB community by means of fasting – a prominent aspect of Islam.

Samiha Islam, MSA vice president and a sophomore psychology major, said the purpose of the Fast-a-Thon is for all students, regardless of religious backgrounds, to exhibit empathy.

For the event, everyone is encouraged to fast from dawn to sunset and donate the money they would have spent on lunch to charity. The money will then go to the United Nations Refugee Agency, which helps feed and clothe refugees and give them shelters. “We want people to think, ‘What I didn’t eat today will go to feed someone tomorrow,” Islam said

Those who are interested could register either on the MSA website or at one of the group’s tabling events in the Student Union this week.

The fast will take place Friday Oct. 23 from dawn – 6:21 a.m. – to sunset – 6:21 p.m.. Participants will be expected to avoid food and water, sexual activity, profanity and disrespect, as is the norm for traditional Islamic fasts.

According to Islam, people often have an automatic sense of fear when it comes to fasting. She explained the concept of the pre-dawn meal, called the suhoor.

“You wake up early a little bit before dawn and eat, which carries you through the day and [you] drink water to sustain you through the day,” Islam said.

In Islamic tradition, if people are unable to fast because of old age, sickness, pregnancy or a menstrual cycle, they are encouraged to give to charity, whether it is monetary or simply a smile to a stranger.

People think that if they accidently eat during the day, it’s over for them, but Islam relieved that idea.

“We’re human and we make mistakes so if that happens, carry on,” Islam said. “The purpose you came into the fast with still stands, which is empathy.”

MSA has been in the process of expanding by offering more inclusive events like the Fast-a-Thon, and creating new committees within its executive board. The Muslim Women’s Council (MWC) was founded last year as a subcommittee because members felt there wasn’t enough representation for its female members.

This semester the MWC has participated in a basketball game, held Quran lessons and halaqahs, which translates to “circle” in Arabic. At these bi-weekly lectures, or halaqahs, led by the MWC vice president, the women ponder ideas and concepts in Islam.

Members have been able to foster a sisterhood and maintain their faith in a large university.

“I came to UB because my older sister did and she was a part of MSA, which is why I joined,” said Fatama Atti, MWC public relations coordinator and a biological science major. “I’m glad I did because I get to enjoy an aspect of my Islamic culture that I may not in my daily life because of classes and distractions. I’m not into partying and going to the club but I’m interested in creating fun, Islamically acceptable events for Muslim students on campus.”

Houda Nashawi, a biological science major, actively sought out a club she would find comfort and familiarity in before coming to UB for grad school after living in Syria for most of her life.

“I was coming to a new place so I wanted to find someone who could help me out and I connected with the Muslim Women’s Council on the Facebook page,” Nashawi said.

According to Islam, members of MSA and MWC are looking forward to getting support from students of all backgrounds, religious beliefs and cultures with the upcoming Fast-a-thon. MSA will be hosting an iftar, or meal to break the fast, for participants on Friday at 6 p.m. in the Student Union.

Jessica Bain is a features staff writer. Features desk can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com.