Organizers of the recent Fast-A-Thon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center said that one goal of the event was to teach participants how to find their hearts for humanity through their stomachs.
Their empty stomachs, that is.
“We encourage everyone to fast so they know how if feels,”Rashhan Siddique, vice president of external affairs for Islam on Campus, said.
“After fasting, you wouldn’t look at a homeless person the same way you did a few days back. You would know how it feels.”
Around 700 University of Florida students tried to absorb that lesson during the Oct. 6 13th annual Fast-A-Thon. The event was hosted by the student organization, Islam on Campus, which donates five dollars on behalf of each participant who pledges to fast. They also received a free meal afterward.
This year, Fast-A-Thon donations will benefit Project Downtown Gainesville, a local charity that feeds Gainesville’s homeless on weekends, and Islamic Relief USA, which plans to assist Nepal earthquake survivors.
Siddique said the organization typically donates to Project Downtown Gainesville.
“We always help them out, giving them that extra push…and it’s a noble cause, feeding the homeless,” said the 20-year-old UF electrical engineering junior. “We’re helping out humans.”
He said the organization chose to focus on Nepal earthquake victims when the disaster occurred and that it’s important to continue supporting causes long after they’ve settled down.
Siddique expects Fast-A-Thon to raise over $3,000, and Islam on Campus will divide the money raised between Project Downtown Gainesville and Islamic Relief USA.
Taimoor Khan, treasurer for Project Downtown Gainesville, said Fast-A-Thon is a great way to access people who haven’t heard about its services
. The 21-year-old UF biology senior chose to fast on Tuesday.
“Hunger is omnipresent in our world,” he said. “You need to feel that to really have empathy for it. A lot of people with Project Downtown Gainesville understand that.”
Fast-A-Thon’s guest speaker, Ustadh AbdelRahman Murphy, a Muslim convert and youth director, Muslim chaplain, and assistant imam, spoke about fasting and the value one can obtain from it.
“He’s a very spiritual person, but he’s also someone who can connect to non-Muslims as well,” Siddique said. “He knows how to explain things in a matter where everyone can understand, not just Muslims.”
Adam Lam, an 18-year-old applied physiology and kinesiology freshman, said he was first attracted to the event for the free meal. After hearing Murphy speak, he said he never realized fasting also meant abstaining from drinking water.
“If you look at the bigger picture…this is a personal challenge of how far can I push myself in terms of a psychological limit, I can see where fasting can be something to testify to that.”