October 22, 2005


Ramadhan is a particularly interesting time of year in the West because religious expression extends over the course of the whole day. As a result, questions will always arise in classrooms and workplaces, such as "Why aren't you coming out with us for lunch? How come you're leaving work at this time? Why are you never home in the evenings?"

Some answer with awkwardness or deliberation, and fail to provide good answers. Consequently, an excellent opportunity for educating people about Islam becomes lost. This feeling generally prevails when we develop a sense of disconnect from the lives and practices of non-Muslims; we feel that since we don't want to be involved with their activities, we don't them involved in our activities. Unfortunately, this only further alienates the community, and makes it harder for such opportunities to arise again in the future. This is a major problem within the Muslim community, and needs to change.

In the past, I've always been fairly up front regarding my beliefs and practices, but this year I wanted to take it a step further. Weeks before Ramadhan began, I started talking about it around the office, in elevators, and wherever else would I find myself. I work for a large consulting firm, and before Ramadhan began, my whole team knew about it and kept asking if it had begun yet.

So when it finally did, I was amazed when some of my non-Muslim colleagues expressed interest in fasting for a day themselves. I did not need to convince anyone or even encourage them, but of their own volition, they agreed to try it at least once. This was an opportunity not only to help others become more understanding of Muslims, but to engage them in a Muslim experience. To this end, I contacted the Ottawa Food Bank to turn this day of fasting into a charity event, where my whole team would fast, and others would contribute to a worthy cause in support of it. I was calling it Fast-a-thon, as the event was similar to ones organized by some MSA's with that name, but others called it Ramathon as an homage to the month of Ramadhan.

We set the day of fasting to be Wednesday, October 19th. I did not want the fasting to affect the productivity of my colleagues, so I told them that they could cheat if they really needed to, but they insisted on going through with it fully. On that day, they all woke up at 5:30am for an early meal, and then fasted from just before 6:00am to sunset at 6:14pm. They even avoided brushing their teeth during the hours of fasting, something many Muslims fail to do even though it is considered to be makruh, or undesirable. (See here.)

Two of them could not get by without at least water, so they drank throughout the course of the day. Even then, they strictly avoided any other drink entirely. The rest made the full fast until sunset. Most of them found it very difficult, with one wondering whether just licking an apple would break the fast. In the end, they made it through, and we broke our fast with dates and Timbits.

One noted, "It's strange we never see Faraz complaining about this."
Another replied, "Yeah, but he's got Allah."

Throughout the day, there was a buzz around the office, with everyone asking about the progress of the fast and the charity efforts; we had two donation boxes set up around the office and another at a client site. In the end, we raised just over 250$ for the Ottawa Food Bank, an impressive amount considering our rushed preparation. In spite of the fact that it was very difficult for most of the non-Muslim fasters, some were already talking about holding such an event next year with better preparation and more participation.

The Fastathon website expresses their vision as one of a nation as one that is not only accepting of Islam and Muslims, but one that is better because of them. This should be the vision of all Muslims living in North America. We tend to complain about injustice and intolerance and condemn whatever we find condemnable, but we have done very little to alleviate the problems. We lose ourselves in rhetoric, and our action falls short as a result. In the past, entire nations accepted Islam not because they were simply tolerant of it, but because they realized that society as a whole was better with Islam.

Huge thanks go out to CC, TT, TB, and JM for their patience, support, and dedication! And thanks to everyone else who helped out in supporting the event! I know at least some of you read this.


  1. Salam alaikum!

    Ma'shAllah this was a great tool od Da'waa as the non-Muslims were able to experience the Muslim fast. May Allah make them recognize the Truth (Haq) and lead them to Islam!

    I read your blog with particular interest because I've become very interested in Da'waa myself, recently. The rewards are so attractive for the smallest act of Da'waa - like talking to the non-Muslims in a pleasant manner - that you can't help but with to be a Da'ee.

    However, Muslims need to understand that just screaming at another person or agressive arguing won't bring people to Islam. Here is a recent dialogue between a man - Tanvir - and an American Jew:


    This Tanvir needs some tutoring in Da'waa etiquettes and tools!

  2. I don't remember how I came across that site exactly, but I was just reading over that guys blog yesterday. It's a small world, and apparently the internet is small too.

    I was thinking the same thing; this gentleman needs to learn some etiquette. Of course, he's saying it online; it's even more frustrating when you hear people actually talking like that.

    The Fastathon event was definitely worthwhile. It was definitely an interesting social experiment, and in the end, we did raise a decent amount of money for a worthy cause. My colleagues made it very easy for the event to be successful, thanks to their dedication and enthusiasm.

  3. Assalaamu alaikum Faraz,

    Read your article in the Muslim Link (which my sister had to go to Ottawa to get!) Good stuff :)


  4. Assalamu'alaykum,
    I'll try to find out what's going on with the Toronto distribution. We printed over 10,000 copies I believe; I have no idea why they may not have been delivered to Toronto.

    I think I'll post that article up here on Irrelevant Opinions at some point. It might be more poignant particularly after the earthquake. I'm a little annoyed about the editing on that one when it went in print.

    And regarding Fast-a-thon, our collection is now over 350$ thanks to a generous outside donor from the GTA. JazakAllah!

  5. Assalaamu'alaykum wa rahmatu Allah

    Subhan'Allah! The thing about having a fast-a-thon that hasn't quite sat too comfortably with me is trying to convince people to give it a try. I reasoned that its fruitfulness comes from their own desire to 'give it a try' in the least... but of course they need to be inspired by the zeal that Muslims carry with them throughout Ramadaan.

    I think your co-worker couldn't have said it better with "..but he's got Allah" ..insha'Allah wa ameen. Sometimes we neglect the difference of one with belief and one without.

    Ramadaan is just around the corner, insha'Allah. One dear teacher once told us that the sahabas would spend roughly half the year (or a little more) preparing for Ramadan (spiritually) and then after Ramadaan they would spend roughly half a year (or a little less) repenting for having not made the most of Ramadaan. :)

  6. Wa'alaykum assalam, Peace. (That sounds a bit redundant, don't you think?)

    I think that when Muslims are open about the reasons and benefits of fasting (inside and outside of Ramadhan), some non-Muslims will definitely be touched. The orders of Allah have their own beauty that attracts people when we as Muslims present them in their true form. We shouldn't need to rationalize the benefits of Allah's commands by referring to "scientific benefits" and other such things; they should hold up on their own for what they are, because they are truly the orders of the Creator of the heavens and the earth.

    Ramadhan is soon... I think I'll be out of town throughout most of Ramadhan this year, which will be a bit annoying. Khair, insha-Allah; make du'a for me.

  7. Assalaamu'alaykum wa rahmatu Allah

    Well....yes I guess salaam to peace is a little redundant, thus I haved ceased my attempts at anonymity.

    I couldn't agree more with what you said. Insha'Allah if we have the certainty (yaqeen), our hearts will be open to Islam that I suspect is sweeter than the sweetness of the Islam we know now (if that makes any sense).

    You live life as a nomad it seems. Insha'Allah khayr. May there be much benefit in this Ramadaan for you and us all, ameen. I just hope you don't miss out on celebrating Eid with family.

    La tansoona min salih ad-du'a [Roughly translated: Do not forget us in your sincere prayers.]

  8. Wa'alaykum assalam,
    Since I don't think I know you anyway, the anonymity thing doesn't make much of a difference. But it is nice to have a real name attached to your insightful comments, so jazakAllah-khair.

    The nomadic thing... that's only temporary, insha-Allah. Either way, I've learned a lot from travelling, and have few regrets.

    Insha-Allah, you will be in my prayers, particularly now that I have a name to go by. :)