Students gather, share Islamic rituals, festivities

April Samuelson

Fastathon bridges gaps between different religious groups

During Fastathon, students eat at the Kent Mosque after the sun goes down to observe the rules of Ramadan. DAVID ANTHONY RANUCCI | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Last night, in a room filled only with women sitting on the floor, senior political science major Elizabeth Eisaman tried tabouli for the first time.

“It has a lot of different spices,” Eisaman said between bites. “It’s very different and unique. I’ve never had mid-eastern or Pakistani food before. It’s a new experience. I have no idea what I’m eating. It’s like Thanksgiving.”

Eisaman was one of several students and community members who experienced mid-Eastern food and Islam for the first time at the Muslim Student Association Fastathon.

“The point of the Fastathon is bridging the gap between Islam and all of the different religions,” said Shimaa Shendy, senior psychology major and vice president of the association. “I think it just makes other people more open-minded about Islam. It shows the other individuals more common interests we have together and the differences. And what better way is there to bridge the gap than food.”

Non-Muslim students were asked to fast for the day to experience what their Muslim friends go through during Ramadan and to give money for the Portage County Food Bank.

Katie Miller, freshman integrated life sciences major, fasted for the first time to experience what her roommate goes through.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Miller said. “I thought the worst part was just not being able to drink just because you don’t realize how thirsty you get on a day-to-day basis. You don’t think about if you’re drinking throughout.”

Many students who entered the mosque were caught off-guard when they were asked to remove their shoes. Everyone then gathered in the community room, which had a partition between the men and the women. Students were given the option to watch the Muslims pray upstairs.

During the prayer, the men stood at the front of the room and the women stood in the back. Everyone faced east toward Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The men and a few children stood close together in two rows.

“They have to stand shoulder to shoulder and toe to toe to stop the devil from coming between them,” Shendy said. “The women are in the back for the obvious reasons, because when they bend it’s very distracting for the men. It’s not a superiority thing.”

One man stood in the front and chanted in Arabic. The men got up and down, and got on their knees and bowed several times before the prayer was over. One man came in late, and he joined in right away at the kneeled bow. Shendy explained if people come late, they have to join in at that point and make up for it afterward. At the end of the prayer, the men brushed the shoulders of their neighbor, and some continued to pray.

“We believe on the right shoulder are angels that write good deeds and on the left are angels that write bad deeds,” Shendy said. “We brush the shoulders for good deeds. You brush the shoulders and say ‘peace be upon you.'”

The night ended with a question and answer session. Students asked Jamal Husseini, the president of the association and Nouman Bantan, Kent Mosque congregation member, questions ranging from “Do Muslims date?” to “Do Muslims believe in predestination?”

Bantan said Muslims believe very strongly in predestination, but prayer can change fate.

“If God has written in his book that I’m not going to graduate, it doesn’t matter how many years I’m here, I’m not going to graduate,” he said. “So I pray to God, ‘Can I graduate?'”

Contact religion reporter April Samuelson at [email protected].