Muslim group gives back through fundraising Fast-a-Thon


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Richmond resident Qasim Abdulrahem rubs his hands as his mother fixes him a plate during the Muslim Student Association Fast-A-Thon event at Fireside Hall on Thursday.

By Jshania Owens, Staff Writer

Balloons and stars hung near the entrance of Fireside Hall as traditional candles and small table lamps illuminated the podium for the Muslim Student Association (MSA) Fast-a-Thon on Thursday.

In preparation for Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, reflection and prayer, the event emphasized world hunger and food insecurities.

Keeping the mission statement to create a sense of community between Muslim and non-Muslim students, a traditional Mediterranean dinner was served, along with a raffle and a presentation by guest speaker Imam Hamzah Mehter.

Tickets were sold for $3 instead of last year’s price at $5, and more than $350 was raised this year.

MSA President Rayah Alammari said proceeds will be donated to Islamic Relief USA, an organization providing food and resources for low-income communities and homeless shelter charities in Syria.

“When we fast for a week, we get a sense of how the poor and the hungry may feel every day,” she said.

MSA member Mohamad Alammari said, “This year was a good turnout. When it’s time to celebrate Ramadan it’s important for us to realize how much we have and to be grateful for it.”

For the event, tables decorated with white tablecloth and gold detailing were placed throughout Fireside Hall.

MSA member Noor Ayyad, who helped decorate for the Fast-A-Thon, said it’s all about having a dialog and teaching new things to those who are interested.

“One of my favorite parts about this event is being able to communicate with younger people and teach them about Ramadan,” she said.

The raffle prizes included a $15 Starbucks gift card, a $25 Visa card, and Jamba Juice gift cards valued at $10 as an appreciation gift for anyone who donated.

Guests pledged to fast after buying their tickets a week in advance.

Alammari said the event started by breaking the fast with dates, a Middle Eastern fruit eaten as a tradition in the beginning of Ramadan.

Guests began the feast with food provided by Q’s Halal in Richmond. They enjoyed chicken tikka masala and rice, chana masala, and hummus while listening to guest speaker Imam Hamza Mehter.

Mehter has been a leader at local mosques for the past four years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern studies and Islamic studies. Mehter, who is the youngest Islamic prayer leader at the San Pablo mosque, told guests about the physical and mental health benefits of fasting and gaining a sense of empathy for the less fortunate.

“Fasting instills a sense of calm and control in our bodies,” he said. “There’s also an emphasis on charity and a time of connecting with humanity.”

Mehter also talked about the spirituality of fasting. “What we eat correlates to our spiritual state and our constant awareness of God.”

The literal meaning of Ramadan is “to burn.”

“We are burning our sins,” Mehter said, “our habits, vices. Our sins are forgiven.”

Desserts came at the end of the event, with a display of homemade treats.

Contra Costa College political science major Ricky Cusguen said he enjoyed every moment of the event.

For him, fasting was a new challenge since this was his first time.

“It was a struggle for me. I’m proud of myself for doing this. I liked talking to people here, socializing and meeting new people.”

It was also a new experience for psychology major Tracy Ward.

“It was a conscious awareness for me and a constant reminder to keep going,” Ward said.

Alammari said she is proud of this year’s event. “In no way would this be possible without the MSA members helping out and the group effort we all put in together.”