Islamic Center of Manhattan holds “Fast-A-Day” event

Members of the Muslim community gather for prayer at the Islamic Center in Manhattan on July 1, 2015. (File Photo by George Walker | The Collegian)

The Islamic Center of Manhattan held its fourth annual “Fast-A-Day” event last Wednesday.

The Manhattan community was invited to attend the event, where they could learn more about the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and break fast with Manhattan’s Muslim community. Individuals were also invited to join in a day of fasting by refraining from consuming any food or drink, should they choose to do so.

The ninth month in the Islamic Calendar, Ramadan, is a holy month in which Muslims fast during daylight hours. In addition to abstaining from food or drink, Muslims observing Ramadan also try to refrain from indulging in acts that are considered sinful, such as fighting or lying.

“The first two or three days of fasting are the most challenging, but after that your body starts to get used to it,” Sajid Rahman, graduate student in computer science and interim president of the K-State branch of the Muslim Student Association, said. “There’s also a sense of team spirit or teamwork – I know that other Muslims are fasting too, which makes it easier. Even the younger kids, nine or 10 years old, want to fast along with everyone else. There’s a sense of community.”

The “Fast-A-Day” event itself lasted for about an hour, beginning with a recitation from the Quran that was followed by a presentation. The presentation explained some of the basics of the Islamic faith, before going more in depth about Ramadan and fasting. A short quiz covering material from the presentation followed, and gift cards were handed out to those who performed well on the quiz.

After that, Muslim individuals went upstairs to pray before breaking their fast, and invited curious guests to observe. Upon their return, everyone broke fast together.

Wendy Matthews, assistant director for special programs and sponsored students at K-State, was at the event with her daughter Michaela Matthews, sophomore in family studies and human services.

“I have Islamic international students, and I wanted to learn a bit more about Ramadan and the Islamic faith,” Wendy said. “So when the Islamic Center made this opportunity available to me, I got my daughter, and we decided that this was the best way to learn.”

Michaela said the event let her get a better understanding of Ramadan and Islamic culture than she would of if she had researched it on her own.

“This event let me experience and learn about a culture I don’t know as much about,” Michaela said. “I think getting to experience all this firsthand and see it for myself is a lot better than if I had just researched it online. I just get a much clearer understanding.”

Wendy explained how a better understanding of Ramadan could help her connect with some of the international students she works with.

“I think this event helps give me some context and helps me connect on some level with some of my students,” Wendy said. “Even though I don’t observe Ramadan, if I see my students fasting during Ramadan, I can have a bit of understanding of what that experience is like for them.”

Tareque Nasser, assistant professor of finance, said this is what the event set out to achieve.

“Fast-A-Day is a chance for us to share our faith with the community,” Nasser said. “I think the thing I want them to take away from it is an understanding that even though we are different, we are not too different.”

Rahman also said the event is about understanding. He explained that the goal was to let people get a clearer view of what it means to be a Muslim.

“I want people to come to this event so they can get a chance to know us and learn about our faith,” Rahman said. “I want people to understand what Islam is really about.”

Wendy said she hopes the Islamic Center will host another Fast-A-Day event next year.

“They’re all so welcoming here,” Wendy said. “I’m so glad they opened their doors to us and shared this holiday with us. I would absolutely come again, and I would invite and tell more people to join. It was a wonderful experience.”