Matthew Berki came to Eastern Michigan University Tuesday to lecture on the importance of fasting at this year’s “Fast-A-Thon.” On the day of the event, people were encouraged to fast the entire day from sunrise to sunset. Then, they were welcomed to break their fast at sunset with a banquet hosted by the Muslim Student Association.
Berki started the banquet with a lecture on fasting and Islam before everyone broke their fast. His lecture emphasized the essence of Islam to the audience.
“We are on this earth to worship our creator,” Berki said. “Worshipping comes in many forms. We can worship by being nice to our neighbor or even going to work. The point is that it must be done with the right intentions.”
According to Berki, one does not have to be a Muslim to fast, although in Islam, fasting is not just a resolve to refrain from eating from sunrise to sunset. A person who fasts also must not engage in sexual relations with a spouse for the entire time that they are fasting, and they must have the right intentions for fasting.
Berki said intentions were important while fasting.
“I really liked how he emphasized how fasting isn’t just an act of worship, but also a time for self-discipline and self-growth,” said Elaf Alchurbaji, president of MSA.
Sophomore Jessica Thomas said it was hard for her to stay committed to her fast.
“This is my sixth time trying and I failed again and ended up breaking my fast earlier today. I need to have more self-discipline, but it’s hard,” Thomas said. “I tried to pray to distract myself, but that didn’t work. I would definitely try it again. It is important to me so I will try later on.”
Ramadan is famous for being a time when all Muslims are required to fast for an entire lunar month, although there are exceptions to that rule. If one is sick, too old or on a journey, they are exempt from the fast and can do something else to make up for it.
Berki mentioned that charity and feeding the poor are good ways for one to make up their fasts if they have a sound reason not to fast during Ramadan.
“Fasting was difficult for me and I failed today. I didn’t expect the outcome,” sophomore Stephanie Simon said. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can do it. I can do anything.’ But, I ended up feeling dead in all of my classes. I didn’t like it because it was my first time, but I will try it again when I have the chance.”
Berki said God does not intend for fasting to be difficult, which is why exceptions are made.
“It shows our need as humans and our humility,” Berki said. “We feel humbled and finally appreciate what we are given and are able to reflect upon people who don’t have the option to fast because they don’t have food to eat in the first place. Fasting is supposed to make one conscious of the need for their creator. To be aware of our creator is important and to grow closer to him is the
Chris Stadtfeld, a junior, converted to Islam late last year. He fasted on the day of the Fast-A-Thon event and thought back to the first times he tried out fasting.
“I fasted for the first time a couple of years ago during June/July which have some of the longest days of the year and I also had a cashier job at the time,” Stadtfeld said. “The first times that I fasted were the most valuable experiences to me. It came to the point where I couldn’t focus on anything I was doing anymore and I had to try my hardest to keep myself from eating, but I have more respect and empathy for the hungry now because the thought of being that hungry and not having access to food is horrifying.”
Berki mentioned that behavior is an important aspect of fasting. One is not supposed to be angry at others around them, lie or cheat, which are two things that Muslims aren’t allowed to do anyways.
“If a person lies on a daily basis and that is not changed by fasting, then their fast doesn’t really count,” said Berki.
The continuation of fasting and other aspects of Islam throughout the three Abrahamic religions were touched on as well. Berki talked about how the Quran mentions Moses and Jesus, and that they participated in fasting and other Islamic rituals like kneeling and touching one’s head to the ground while praying.
“People must learn to single out God and follow all of the prophets. In the Quran, it says that the religion was sent down as one, but people split it up in to factions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam,” said Berki.
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