Reminders about refraining

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SLU Muslims and friends find God through fasting

Fast-A-Thon returned to its usual spot during the fall semester.

For more than ten years, the Saint Louis University Muslim Student’s Association (MSA) has held its annual Fast-A-Thon as a way for students on campus, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to experience the Islamic fast.

Adil Husain, senior and co-president of MSA, said,  “The purpose of the event is for SLU students to gain taste of what fasting is all about.”

The fast itself consists of abstaining from food and drink from sun-up to sundown for 30 consecutive days, with other optional days, and has a similar idea to regarding fasts in other religions, such as Lent from the Catholic tradition.  It is similar to the Daniel fast, a Christian-oriented fast, which is centered on eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and allowing  spiritual growth.

“Fasting is a reminder for the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. The principle that we are more appreciative of our possessions after losing them is put into effect when fasting,” said Husain.

In addition to its spiritual reminder, the fast “comes with health benefits as well, such as detoxification [and] lower blood pressure,” said Husain.

For two weeks before, the group tabled in the Busch Student Center to raise awareness, collected pledges and sell t-shirts to raise money for the Fast-A-Thon charity. This year’s choice of charity was Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization that focuses on putting a stop to world hunger.

“We had many participants who pledged to fast after previous experiences with Fast-a-Thon, which was very impressive,” said Ayesha Khawaja, MSA co-president.

On changing the timing of the event back to the fall, Khawaja stated that the time between sunrise and sunset is shorter in the second half of the fall semester, “so we thought that it would be easier for participants to fast.” A total of 678 pledges were collected this year with students, parents and faculty.

The event, which took place Thursday, Nov. 6, in the BSC Wool Ballrooms, began with the Islamic call to prayer, “Athan”.  The call is a melodious signal for the start of the fourth prayer of the day, and for breaking the fast at sunset.

Prayer was performed in front of attendees, with the translation of recited Qur’an verses, from the Chapter of Mary, shown on a projector to the whole audience, led by senior Mustafaa Mahmood.

“The word-by-word translation of our entire prayer complemented the presentation very well,” said Husain.

Different from previous years was the position of the congregation for the prayer; “to bring more focus to our prayer” said Husain.

Paul Sylvester, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences felt that Fast-A-Thon was an interesting experience and he found it “enlightening” and enjoyable.

For freshman Mazin Nabulsi, who has been fasting since he was around eight, said, “It was a great way to show all my friends, who were unfamiliar with the concept, what fasting is actually about and its not just starving yourself.”

Food was served and effort was made to accommodate people with dietary restrictions, such as having halal and vegetarian options.

The event concluded with comedian Preacher Moss, an American stand-up comedian whose comedy and lecture tour were voted “Best Diversity Act” on college campuses for 2008 and 2009.  His performance focused on his conversion to Islam and his experience as an African American in America as means of starting conversations on race, religion and other sensitive topics.

Husain wanted to give a special thanks to everyone who participated and leave them with the Islamic greeting, “may peace be upon you”.