For senior Donia Shawn, the Holy Month of Ramadan is a time to reconnect with her family and build her relationship with her God, Allah. Ramadan is Shawn’s favorite holiday in the Islam religion because it molds a time of patience and gratitude into her otherwise hectic life.
Shawn is one of the 1 billion Muslims around the world who celebrate Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which they believe the Prophet Muhammad received the Holy Quran. Muslims celebrate Ramadan by focusing on purifying their souls through prayer and self-sacrifice through fasting.
“The significance of fasting to Islam is to improve your moral character, learn to be grateful, work on positivity, and grow closer through Allah,” Shawn said. “ You are doing this to please Allah.”
Although Ramadan in the United States does not begin until May this year, the RBHS Muslim Student Union (MSU) is putting on its annual fast-a-thon on Wednesday, Jan. 17. The event encourages, but does not require, students to fast from food and water from sunrise to sunset to experience fasting as Muslims do during Ramadan. MSU has invited everyone to join them in the cafeteria at 4:45 p.m. to break the fast together. The event will include a brief informational presentations over Islam and Ramadan, and then participants will share a free meal together.
“We are encouraging people to come to the event even if they don’t fast because we want to educate people about what Islam is, so people can see what Muslims are like, despite the negative reputation that is portrayed in the media,” Shawn said. “We want people to realize that Islam is a religion of peace and love.”
The fast-a-thon originated at RBHS over 10 years ago, MSU sponsor Betsy Jones said, and is a way for all students to learn more about Islam by partaking in an integral aspect of the faith.
“Ramadan was over the summer this year, [and] fasting in the summer months is harder as it is a longer period of time,” Jones said. “For non-Muslims not used to fasting, fasting in the winter is much easier.”
For senior Kristine Cho, the fast-a-thon has become a way for her to engage with her community, support her friends and continue to celebrate diversity. Cho is not Muslim, but the fast-a-thon is one of her favorite RBHS events and she looks forward to fasting with MSU every year.
“Honestly, fasting was one of the hardest things I’ve done physically,” Cho said. “I had never fasted before [I participated in] the fast-a-thon, so it was an eye-opening experience. It gave me a new level of respect for people who fast; it takes a lot of discipline and dedication.”
Cho said it was the advertisement of a free meal that originally drew her to go to the event her freshman year, but its cultural impact on her kept her coming back.
It’s that newfound understanding of the Islam religion that Shawn and the rest of the MSU hopes to bestow upon participants of the upcoming fast-a-thon.
“Many people do not have food or water around the world. People take things for granted and waste and this helps us realize that we shouldn’t because many do not have this luxury,” Shawn said. “Also, it’s a time where people work on their patience because fasting is difficult & you must make sure to be kind to others, so you work on positivity & improve your moral character & grow closer to Allah.”