Muslim Student Association Fast-a-thon group picture

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TCU’s Muslim Student Association held their annual Fast-a-thon on Nov. 10, where a guest speaker talked about the norms and experiences that a person fasting in the Islamic faith would have.

About 50 people attended the Fast-a-thon inside the conference room in Tucker Tech Center. People were encouraged online to fast the day of until the event, where they were able to enjoy Mediterranean food to break it.

Vistors getting their food (Photo courtesy: Brandon Kitchin)
Vistors getting their food (Brandon Kitchin/TCU360)

“The people before the Muslims were prescribed fasting so the Muslims believe in it too,” Suriya Jaekoma, the guest speaker, said. “It’s to reflect upon the people and the world around them.”

Jaekoma was an Imam, a Muslim religious leader, for five years. He has a private school where he teaches children the Quran and Arabic and travels to different mosques and schools to give lectures on religion.

Suriya Jaekoma was the guest speaker at the Fast-a-thon (Photo courtesy: Brandon Kitchin)
Suriya Jaekoma was the guest speaker at the Fast-a-thon (Brandon Kitchin/TCU360)

People who fast will try to avoid conflict so they can focus on the good in their lives, he said. “A person has to be physically and mentally stable, if not, you will not be rewarded for it,” Jaekoma said.

Fasting is to be observed by adults, and it is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with Faith, Prayer, Charity and the Pilgrimage to Mecca. The Islamic month of Ramadan is the month dedicated to fasting, but fasting is not confined to Ramadan; instead, it is a year-round observance.

However, there are also exceptions to the regulations of fasting that he explained.

For people that are sick or traveling, fasting is not obligatory. During fasting, observers are supposed to be in good health and not eating would hinder the ability to do so, Jaekoma said.

Additionally, fasting is not encouraged for people in certain stages of life.

For the elderly and the sick, pregnant women and children before pre-pubescence, the duration of fasting might be altered to a shorter time so they can be in proper health.“Fasting should not cause you any harm,” Jaekoma said.

Using Ramadan as the example, where Muslims fast from sunrise until sundown, some people are unable to go that long without eating, he said.

Hanan Hammad, an assistant professor of Middle East and Islamic world history at TCU, said fasting is not about hunger, but rather it is about purity.

“It means you drop all bad habits and restrain from doing anything that’s immoral or [that] harms the community or yourself, and adopt the good things,” Hammad said. “You’re watching yourself all the time.”

Hammad, who got her bachelor’s degree from Cairo University and worked as a journalist before coming to the U.S., said there is a difference in fasting from where she’s from compared to America.

In terms of pop culture surrounding fasting and Ramadan, the two regions are very different. In a predominantly Muslim country, pop culture tends to be very celebratory during this time period. In America, the community is smaller, and the attitudes are quieter and more modest.

According to the 2016 TCU Fact Book, 47 students identify as Muslims. That equates to not even half a percent of the total population at TCU.

Membership to MSA is open to anyone on campus.