By Nargis Hakim, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Beginning the month of October with their annual Fast-A-Thon, Wayne State Universityâ€™s MSA honored hundreds of starving Somalian kids and families. Uniting humanity through hunger, the theme of the evening, brought many fasters together from different faiths to feel the pain of the poor and hungry.
After pledging to fast 13 hours of the day, Non-Muslims participated in one day of the holiest month alongside Muslims. â€œPutting yourself out of your comfort zone is something you should always doâ€, explains senior Naomi Philson.
Mercy USA (M-USA) was the organization MSA worked with to reach out to those in need.
Adel Aldahhan, the data processing manager for M-USA brought important facts to expose the realistic horror of famine. â€œ1:4 children in Somalia die before they reach the age of 5 and 1600 of 100,000 women die before giving childbirthâ€, said Aldahhan. Numbers continue to grow with the lack of support from outside countries. â€œSomalia is one of the poorest countries in the world with 99% Muslims. It has the highest child mortality rate, devastated by civil warsâ€.
Abdullah Aldahhan, senior and vice-president of WSU, was in charge of making sure the whole event ran smoothly. There was a â€œBig time crunch, the planning process was delayed because we were busy with daily Ramadan Iftars. It was hard getting volunteers organizedâ€.
Along with helping M-USA, the Fast-A-Thon gave an opportunity for others to gain insight about fasting in Ramadan as well as testify the lessons learned from fasting for an entire day.
â€œRamadan helps us understand, in terms food and drink, you feel what the people feel after not eating and drinking for 30 daysâ€, said AbdulRahman El-Sayed, who was the honorary speaker at the event.
El-Sayed opened his speech by first referring to an ayah in the Quran: â€œO ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, (2:183 / Yusuf Ali Translation)â€.
Following the ayah, El-Sayed gave the audience three key reasons to fasting; â€œto improve discipline, bridge the community (ummah), and as a reminder of how lucky we are for what God has given usâ€.
By comparing fasting to running laps, he brought home the ideals of fasting. When people are late for practice in sports, they are penalized, sometimes as a whole group. Out of embarrassment, it helps you â€œbuild self discipline, which is why you are less likely to make the same mistake. The team running together also makes the team come together because you have all went through a hardship together, like an ummah that fasts the whole day and comes together to pray at nightâ€, said El-Sayed.
Freshman, Majeda Ahmed said the Fast-A-Thon made her want to contribute more, â€œIt makes me eager to get more involved in schoolâ€. Each year the MSA picks a different organization for charity-giving. This yearâ€™s organization, M-USA focuses on relief and development organization, and assistance during natural disasters. It is located around the world concentrating on Muslim countries including Balkins, Albania, Bosnia, The Horn of Africa; Somolia, Kenya, Indonesia, Lebanon, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.
Recently Mercy USA received a $300,000 grant by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). â€œUSAID will help open 3 new clinics and 3 feeding centers for 20,000 people. These include vulnerable women and children in South Central Somaliaâ€, said Aldahhan.
Testimonials were introduced by Osama Alian, junior, who said â€œItâ€™s a bigger world than the borders of your mind. You shouldnâ€™t be afraid to exploreâ€.
Philson said prior to the Fast-A-Thon, she wasnâ€™t fully aware of the issues in Somalia. â€œI wasnâ€™t as knowledgeable about the problems in Somalia. I knew there were problems but didnâ€™t know to that extentâ€.
Sarah Wilder, Grad student said it was a little tough for her to get through her day but she didnâ€™t give up because â€œItâ€™s like cheating. The children canâ€™t cheat, the families canâ€™t cheat. It was a very good experience. It taught me mind-fullnessâ€.
Senior Rachel Brzys has been a devoted faster for the past few years. â€œI have attended the Fast-A-Thon since 2004. As Christian I have to love all people and even people very different. Everytime I feel angry or grumpy I think this is how all the Muslims are feeling right nowâ€.
Proceeds from the Fast-A-Thon will go to open â€œMotherChild clinics, four TB Centers in Somalia, and Malaria Clinicsâ€, said Aldahhan.