Eastern Michigan University’s Muslim Student Association organization hosted a Fast-a-Thon, engaging students in learning about the importance of fasting during Ramadan for Muslims with guest speaker Ali Suleiman Ali.
The MSA oragnization held the event on a Thursday to encourage students to fast on a day of Sunnah, which refers to accommodating the living habits of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Ali said the sole objective of Islam is submission.
“We are the property of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala,” Ali said.
He explained the term “syaam,” which in English is referred to as fasting from food or drink. However, in Arabic, he said it has a slightly different meaning.
“It’s to abstain from everything,” Ali said. “Drinking, eating, physical relationships from dawn until sunset for the sake of God.”
Fasting for religion is intended to help control any negativity, ranging from anger to backbiting.
With a crowd of Muslims and non-Muslims in the room, Ali explained that it should not be thought of as a weight loss program because sometimes people see it that way.
“Every deed is for yourself, but fasting is for God,” Ali said.
MSA President Waleed Baker said the Fast-a-Thon is an annual event scheduled during the school year because Ramadan falls in July. He was one of many to fast.
“I thought I was going to be really drained, but I actually had a lot of energy,” Baker said. “Maybe because of the excitement of the event.”
He was also impressed to hear about non-Muslim’s experiences with fasting.
“I thought it was really cool that they fasted,” Baker said. “They got to see the Muslim side of what we have to go through, and they had the same feelings we did as far as it being tough and having to abstain from different things.”
Local Ypsilanti resident Nathan Phillips is a Native American from the Omaha Tribe. He said he came to the event to understand the meaning of fasting, which sparked a similarity to Native Americans. He said they fast for four days for infancy, youth, adults and elders.
“We’re sacrificing for the generations to come, to reach out to God and to cleanse the body, mind and spirit,” Phillips said.
MSA Brothers’ Events Coordinator Jamil Khalid said his favorite part of the lecture was that fasting is a discipline to control certain desires people have, which is something everyone could learn even outside of the religion. He said he would like to see an event that compares Islam to Christianity to encourage students from all over to learn.
“You have to open up the gate to catch their attention and invite them to events,” Khalid said. “If you keep doing Islamic activities or events, it will broaden the learning curve for non-Muslims and Muslims.”
Sophomore and clinical psychology major Layali Alsadah said hands-on or participatory events like these are beneficial for Muslims to rekindle, but also to bring in outside religions, offering different views to the people.
“I knew what the point and reason was for Muslims to fast,” Alsadah said. “But hearing other people talk about how detoxing and refreshing it is, I didn’t think you could grasp that unless you knew the full meaning.”
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