‘Live a day in our shoes’: MSA invites non-Muslims to partake in Ramadan through ‘Fast-A-Thon’


Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer

Students receive food at MSA’s Fast-a-Thon on Tuesday night.

By Ryleigh Lord, Assistant News Editor

Although Sydney Graves isn’t Muslim and has never observed Ramadan, she was excited to experience fasting for a day.

“I thought it was an interesting opportunity to learn more about the Islamic religion and the culture and to put myself into Muslim peoples’ shoes for one day,” Graves, a junior urban studies major, said. 

Graves was one of about 300 students who participated in Pitt’s Muslim Students Association’s “Fast-a-Thon,” an event where non-Muslims fasted on Tuesday with Muslim students for Ramadan. Donors sponsored students who participated in the event, raising more than $4,000 for Islamic Relief USA, an organization that works to eliminate poverty.

Muhammad Rajput, a junior biology major and outreach chair of the MSA, said they had a variety of different sponsors for the event. He said the event is important because it allows non-Muslim students to “live a day in our shoes and see how we go about our lives during Ramadan.” 

“We have people from within the Muslim community that are willing to sponsor us per person who comes. We have our places of worship, they’re called masjids. We have certain people within the Pitt faculty that are willing to sponsor us. It’s a broad range.”

Rajput said Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, and is marked by prayer, reflection and fasting from dawn to dusk. He said fasting is an integral part of the month because it’s one of the five pillars of Islam. 

“Fasting is very important to who we are as Muslims,” Rajput said. “We fast for a lot of reasons, but one of the many is to get closer to our religion and have the whole month to feel more closely attached to those who don’t have the needs that we all take for granted.” 

The Fast-a-Thon culminated in an iftar — the meal that Muslims eat at sundown to break their fasts — hosted in the WPU Assembly Room. The students who participated in the Fast-a-Thon watched a presentation on Ramadan, heard prayers from the Quran and ate food from Salem’s

Arti Shastry, a first-year psychology major participating in the Fast-a-Thon, said fasting was difficult at some points because she’ll often eat when she’s bored.

“I would look at the food and want to eat it but couldn’t,” Shastry said. “Water and food are things I feel like I can just grab and get, and I realized what a privilege it is to be able to do that.” 

Shastry said she met a lot of people at the iftar who were “nice and kind.” She thought it was cool to be a part of religious traditions she doesn’t typically celebrate. 

“Seeing people who are so dedicated to their religion and cultures and being here in the union right now is so cool,” Shastry said. “To see all these people come together for one thing, it’s so special to be able to share that with so many people and learn about their culture.”

Food served at MSA’s Fast-a-Thon on Tuesday night. (Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer)

Graves said her friend, who is a practicing Muslim, helped her before her day of fasting began.

“I ate a snack late at night, because my friend gave me tips on what to do,” Graves said. “And I set my alarm for really in the morning, woke up and ate a few dates that she had brought over to me and chugged water because dehydration was my biggest worry.”

Throughout the day, Graves struggled more mentally rather than physically. 

“During the day it was kind of just a mind thing,” Graves said. “I knew I could do it. It was just getting over the hump of ‘when you’re hungry, don’t pick up food.’”

But she said the event reminded her why she enjoys trying unfamiliar things. 

“You should always take an opportunity to try something new,” Graves said. “It was an interesting opportunity to be in a community of people who are so welcoming and endearing.”

Kareem Ahmed, a second-year dental student and practicing Muslim, said community is what stands out to him during Ramadan, especially at events like the Fast-a-Thon. 

“Community is what brings people together and it’s not easy for anyone to fast, so we really rely on each other to get us through this month,” Ahmed said. “I think it’s great to share cultures and learn about different struggles, especially coming together to break a fast. It’s a way to bridge community and let people be heard.”

Over the years, Ahmed has seen changes in how non-Muslims interact with Ramadan and the act of fasting. 

“Back in the day people really didn’t know what fasting was or what Ramadan was,” Ahmed said. “Now, people come up to me and say ‘Oh, how’s fasting going?’ or ‘I know fasting’s coming up, are you ready? How do you feel? How’s today going?’ and a lot of my friends at school asked and were interested in coming to events like this, so I’m really happy there’s a change.”

Students receive food at MSA’s Fast-a-Thon on Tuesday night. (Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer)

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect that about 300, not 150 people attended the event. Additionally, the article was updated to correct that this was not the first ever Fast-a-Thon. The Pitt News regrets these errors.