First-year nursing student Katie Gerbais didn’t realize how often food consumed her thoughts.
Instead of thinking about what to eat, she said “I could spend my time thinking about what really matters Ö ” Gerbais said.
This insight occurred as Gerbais participated in Al-Madinah Cultural Center’s Ramadan Fast-A-Thon. She was one of approximately 480 students who pledged to fast from sunrise to sunset Wednesday.
Students experienced one day of what a Muslim goes through for one month. Ramadan is the month of worship in which Muslims abstain from food, drink and intimate relations during the day. After sunset, they break their fast with prayers and meals called “iftars.”
One reason Al-Madinah hosted the Fast-A-Thon is that members wanted to give others a chance to experience what they do during the holiday, Al-Madinah Vice President Khalid Yousif said.
“A lot of times when we fast, people come up and ask ‘How could you fast without food and drink?’ ” he said. “It’s a chance for them to try it with us, to see what we are doing throughout the day.”
But Yousif stressed the main reason was to remind students of all the hungry people in the world.
“We want them by the end of the day to appreciate what they have and to think more about those who don’t have,” Yousif said.
Two restaurants, Namish International Cuisines and Chutney Indian Grill, donated a dollar to the American Refugee Committee for each person who pledged to fast Wednesday.
It was the donation to charity that enticed sociology junior Mallory Geving to participate in the Fast-A-Thon.
“It’s for a good cause and as long as I think about that, it keeps me from giving in to my temptations,” Geving said, referring to her desire to drink water while fasting.
Al-Madinah rewarded the students who pledged with a feast at the end of day in Coffman Union. The two restaurants that donated money also catered the event.
The feast began with the Adhan, a prayer signifying the start of breaking the fast. After the prayer, Muslim students participated in the Maghrib. This is the fourth prayer out of five the students perform throughout the day. The Maghrib consists of three Rakahs, which involve people alternating between standing, kneeling and bowing in their worship of Allah.
The main course started at the end of this prayer. Students could choose from an assortment of dishes, including rice, gyros and hummus.
“I’m hungry right now because I can smell the food,” said first-year dance student Elizabeth Bernal. She confessed that she avoided fasting by sleeping most of the day.
First-year theater arts student Matt Hulett said fasting for a day was a good challenge.
“It’s a really good opportunity for non-Muslims to see what it’s like,” Hulett said.
Masih Mohammed, president of Namish International Cuisines, said he believed it was important for students to learn about Ramadan and fasting.
“America is becoming a multicultural society and the more people know about these things, the better it is,” Mohammed said.