Asma Rehman first tried to observe the traditional Muslim, sunrise-to-sunset Ramadan fast when she was just 6 years old.
But her family wouldn't let her, convinced she was too young to go all day without food.
"I know I could have done it," Rehman said, laughing at the memory.
These days, Rehman, 24, does observe the Ramadan fast, abstaining from food and water from morning to nightfall every day for one month.
"The only thing that's difficult is the temptation (at the sight of food). It teaches you a lot about self-control," said Rehman, a Kansas University senior from Kansas City, Mo.
She is the president of the Muslim Student Assn. of Kansas University.
Hundreds of her fellow KU students are expected to take the opportunity to experience just one day of Ramadan fasting Wednesday in an event called the "Ramadan Fast-a-Thon: Get Hungry for Change."
Organized by the school's Muslim Student Assn., the fast-a-thon involves asking non-Muslim students to take a pledge to fast during daylight hours Wednesday.
Earlier this week, about 125 students had already signed up to participate in the fast-a-thon, according to Rehman.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, and the holiest month of the year to followers of Islam, began Oct. 15.
It is expected to end (based upon the appearance of the new moon) Nov. 13.
Muslims fast during the daylight hours of Ramadan as an act of submission, solidarity and remembrance, according to Rehman.
One of the main reasons for fasting is to call attention to those who go hungry every day -- not as an exercise of religious expression, but as a simple fact of life.
The goals of the fast-a-thon are to raise awareness of hunger and poverty in Lawrence, as well as to build bridges of understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim students at KU, she said.
In addition, by organizing the event, members of the Muslim Student Assn. are helping to fulfill their own obligation to provide charity to the needy, which is an essential aspect of Ramadan.
The student association has 45-50 active members, but about 300 KU students who come from around the world belong to the group, according to Rehman.
This will be the first time a Ramadan fast-a-thon fund-raiser has been organized at KU. But Muslim students at other American universities have sponsored fast-a-thons in recent years.
"It's a national thing. It started out at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville three years ago. They spread the word, and MSAs around the U.S. are starting to do this," said Jihad Alammar, 20, a KU junior from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
"At last count, I believe 156 MSAs are doing this, and KU is one of them. We were going to do it last year, but we weren't organized."
Rehman, who has contacts with the Muslim Student Assn. of the U.S. & Canada (known as MSA-National), suggested the KU chapter try organizing a local fast-a-thon.
"I don't think we would have done it without Asma. She's really helping make it a success," said Shaheen Latif, 21, a KU junior from Overland Park and secretary of KU's Muslim Student Assn.
The event is co-sponsored by KU Amnesty International and KU Unicef.
The fast-a-thon has increased a wider understanding of Ramadan -- and Islam -- among non-Muslim students at KU.
Several curious students have approached Rehman and Latif at a fast-a-thon sign-up table in the Kansas Union and asked how Muslims are able to fast for an entire month.
The women cheerfully explained to them that Muslims only fast from sunrise to sunset each day during the monthlong Ramadan, not for a month solid.
Other students appeared to know more about Islam and its observances.
Tess Bricker, 22, a KU senior from Kansas City, Kan., signed up Wednesday to participate in the fast-a-thon.
"I just think it's for a really good cause -- the money goes to people who need it more than I do. I figure if Muslims can fast during Ramadan, I can fast for one day," she said.
"I definitely think it's a great event that raises awareness of hunger in our community and about the Muslim tradition. I think Islam has a lot of great things to offer."
|"The Ramadan Fast-a-Thon -- Get Hungry for Change" will be from sunrise (5:44 a.m.) to sunset (5:11 p.m.) Wednesday.The event, a fund-raiser for the Lawrence Open Shelter, 214 E. 10th St., is being organized by the Muslim Student Assn. of Kansas University.Non-Muslim students are asked to pledge to fast (abstain from all food and liquids) Wednesday to raise awareness of hunger and poverty in Lawrence.The fast will take place during the monthlong, Muslim religious observance of Ramadan, which began Oct. 15 and is expected to end (depending upon the appearance of the new moon) Nov. 13.Lawrence business are sponsoring each non-Muslim student who has pledged to participate in the fast-a-thon, with all proceeds going to the Lawrence Open Shelter.A free, Middle Eastern dinner and program will be offered at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Building 21 at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds. All of the KU students who participate in the fast-a-thon are invited to attend and break the daylong fast together.The last day to sign up to participate in the fast-a-thon is Tuesday.The Muslim Student Assn. will have sign-up tables set up from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Wescoe Beach and from noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday in the Kansas Union.Pledges can also be taken online at www.msaku.com.|