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Muslims get ready for Ramazan fast in summer heat

Published Jul 20, 2012 06:50am


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Iraqis shop for food in preparation for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.—AP Photo
Iraqis shop for food in preparation for the Muslim fasting month of Ramazan.—AP Photo

GAZA CITY: Muslims from Morocco to Afghanistan are steeling themselves for the toughest Ramazan in more than three decades. No food or drink, not even a sip of water, for 14 hours a day during the hottest time of the year.    

The test of self-restraint is made only harder by daily power cuts in some parts of the Muslim world such as Iraq, Pakistan and tiny Gaza.

With temperatures in the region routinely climbing above 40 degrees Celsius and days at their longest of the year, governments are trying to alleviate the hardships of the month long sunrise-to-sunset fast.

Morocco resets the clock so believers can break the fast an hour early. Pakistan promises to reduce daily blackouts, which can last up to 22 hours. Public servants are allowed to work fewer hours.

Despite the hardship, for many Muslims it's the most anticipated part of the year — a  time of family togetherness and religious devotion, a break from routine. Muslims believe God revealed the first verses of their holy book, the Quran, to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramazan.

The Muslim lunar calendar moves back through the seasons, so Ramazan starts 11 days earlier each year under the Western calendar.

The last time Ramazan started in mid-July was in 1980. Winter fasts are easier because of cooler temperatures and shorter days. This year, Ramazan starts in most parts of the Muslim world on Friday, though some mark the beginning on Saturday.

''There's no choice but to bear the heat,'' shrugged Jalal Qandil, 38, a sun-browned, sweating construction worker in Gaza City, father of five school-age children.

''If I don't work, we won't eat this Ramazan. But God will help us.''

Other labourers said they would quietly break their fast, trusting that God understands.

''Sometimes it's so hot, that we can't touch the metal poles on the scaffolding without gloves,'' said Munir, a 26-year-old Pakistani laborer in Dubai.

''You cannot work in these conditions without water. I am religious and respect Ramazan, but it also is not intended to make you sick or put you in danger.''

Many clerics say that's OK. Islam already gives exemptions from the fast for those in certain circumstances — the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, children and travellers.    Religious authorities in the United Arab Emirates allow labourers to break their fast if the temperature exceeds 122 Fahrenheit.

Other Muslim scholars say, regardless of the temperature, labourers can break their fast if they feel weak or thirsty. They have to make up the days later, said Sheik Mohammed Ali, an Iraqi Shia cleric.

''They should have the little food and drink that can make them able to work,'' he said.

Dr Sarmad Hamid, a physician in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, said people should use common sense and stay out of the sun — and those who work outdoors, such as traffic police, should not be expected to fast.

Observing the fast is a particular challenge in Gaza, a tiny sliver of land between Israel and Egypt, ruled by Hamas. After years of strife and border blockades, Gaza is propped up by UN food aid and suffers daily hours-long blackouts.

Gazans have to make do without fans to cool sweltering, crowded apartments, without TVs to distract children and unemployed husbands, without ovens to cook and without water because the electric pumps are idle. As summer heat rises, some have taken to sleeping on floor tiles, the coolest part of their house.

Now, they'll go through all that hungry and thirsty.

For many exhausted housewives, their biggest enemy will be boredom and exhaustion that erode family relations and the joy of this usually festive month.

''Frankly, men, women and children, everybody is sick of each other,'' said a 52-year-old mother of 10, who would only be identified as Umm Mohammed. ''Especially the men: They just sit at home and harass the children.''

Her three sisters-in-law nodded in agreement.

And yet, they said they are looking forward to the season.

For believers, Ramazan is meant to be a time of reflection and worship, abstaining from swearing, gossip and bursts of anger, remembering the hardships of others and being charitable.

In mosques across the Muslim world, volunteers will serve free evening meals for the community. Those who can afford it prepare elaborate dinners for ''Iftar,'' or the meal that breaks the fast. In Morocco, the sunset meal is light, consisting of a traditional spicy thick tomato soup with chickpeas, followed by milk, dates and a croissant. Several hours later, Moroccans eat a full dinner.

Tunisian economist Ridha Gouia estimated that household consumption in his country goes up 1.5 times during Ramazan. Many gain Ramazan pounds, particularly through snacking all evening on cream-and-nut stuffed fried pancakes soaked in syrup, a traditional favourite.

Arab television channels broadcast their best soap operas, betting on a captive audience feeling lethargic after a heavy meal.

Impoverished Gaza women said they are planning ahead to feed their families.

Umm Alaa, 52, who relies on UN food donations for her seven children, three daughters-in-law and grandchildren, plans to cook whenever the power switches on—even at 3 am.

She has a cool corner in the house, where the food doesn't go bad. Her husband, a peanut seller making $7 a day, can't afford a generator.

Governments are trying to ease hardship.

The Pakistani government has promised to prevent blackouts during key food preparation times.

Iraq's Electricity Ministry promised to provide 12 to 14 hours of electricity a day in Baghdad and other areas. Minister Karim Aftan al-Jumaili also said the government would give free fuel to private generators. Despite billions of dollars spent to rebuild Iraq's dilapidated electrical grid, Iraqis still suffer through chronic power outages that have led to sometimes violent protests.

Gaza's militant Islamic rulers Hamas promise eight-hour rotations of power and blackouts.

The Tunisian government has stockpiled eggs, milk, meat, poultry and other staples to avoid shortages and says it will fight price gouging. Tunisia's Social Affairs Ministry said it would distribute food or money to some 235,000 needy families.


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Comments (21) Closed

Ayyaz Nazar Kasim Jul 21, 2012 10:29am
Below is ayat 2:187. Nowhere does it say we cannot drink water while fasting. Furthermore, Allah commands us to stay in the mosques while fasting. And pray in the mosque. How many of us obey Allah by staying in the mosques. Fundamentalists who do not wish to use common sense should take the entire month of Ramzan off and stay in the mosques between sunrise and sunset. "It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset. And do not have relations with them, but stay at your prayers in the mosques ." Again the ayat does not forbid water and it also commands Muslim men to stay in the mosque and pray.
Samad Jul 20, 2012 04:27pm
Mr. Ayyaz, I am not sure what you are trying to say. First of all, what does Ramadan has anything to do with Manhattan. A person sitting at his/her home skipping lunch 5 days a week is the same one like you. I think the article is about Ramadan in general and not focused on an individuals' lifestyle. It's simple... Either you observe fasting in this month, or not. No one is forcing you to skip lunch, and similarly, no one is forcing you to fast. I firmly believe that this 'too busy to have lunch' excuse is bogus. One can have lunch anytime one wants to. I am a very busy person myself, but I make sure I take 5-10 minutes out of my day to eat. After all, that's how I survive! Please be considerate of people who are actually passionate and excited about observing this Holy Month. So, if you wish not to fast, it's your choice. PS: Start having lunches, and eating bits of small meals throughout the day. Eating only dinner is the most unhealthies of habits! :)
Ayyaz Nazar Kasim Jul 21, 2012 02:32pm
Hassan During the Prophet's time all Muslim men stayed in the mosques between sunrise and sunset and prayed. That is what Allah tells to do in the Holy Quran, verse 2:187(Al Baqara, The Cow). If you are such a good Muslim then why don't you do the same?
Shahzad Naseem Jul 20, 2012 04:43pm
So you are unable to fast and think the whole Muslim Ummah should change their religion to suit your needs. I suggest that Muslims throughout the world should abandon the Quran and Sunnah and listen to your pronouncements instead. As you and "Muslims" like you seem to have a direct line to Allah (SWT) and know exactly what HE wants.
Hassan Jul 20, 2012 02:20pm
Ayyaz I'm in Manhattan as well n surviving " R u living on the same Planet" what are you talking about.. ! Why are you trying to change something which was taught to us by our Prophet. Ramadan is not only about skipping meals or water its beyond that. try to get the facts correct my friend.
Jamshed Khan Jul 20, 2012 10:15am
Fasting in Ramadhan is one of the pillars of Islam. I am sure you know this. Enjoy Manhattan but keep your healthier option to yourself. Fasting is to be done the way the Prophet Muhammad PBUH taught us, not by skipping evening meals or drinking water every hour. I am perplexed as to how can one show love for Allah and The Prophet Muhammad PBUH by changing one of the most central practices of Islam? If you are a healthy individual then the Manhattan heat won't kill you if you don't drink every hour. Trust me, because I am a doctor.
Usman Lakhani Jul 20, 2012 10:01am
@Ayyaz Nazar Kasim Huh?
ahmadali86 Jul 20, 2012 11:34am
Ramadan is a month of self-regulation and self-training, with the hope that this training will last beyond the end of Ramadan. If the lessons learned during Ramadan, whether in terms of dietary intake or righteousness, are carried on after Ramadan, it is beneficial for one’s entire life. Moreover, the type of food taken during Ramadan does not have any selective criteria of crash diets such as those which are protein only or fruit only type diets. Everything that is permissible is taken in moderate quantities.
Agha Ata Jul 20, 2012 12:41pm
Why is Ramadan more about eating than not eating?
Naseer Qureshi Jul 20, 2012 12:56pm
@Ayyaz Nazar Kasim, what are you talking about?
Imran Jul 20, 2012 10:35am
Mr.Khan, I think you should open up your mind a little and see what other Muslim countries are also doing
Ayyaz Nazar Kasim Jul 20, 2012 08:21am
We Muslims should stop calling the Ramzan " fast" a fast. It sounds too pretentious. Because all we do really is to skip lunch. I work in Manhattan and I skip lunch five days a week, 50 weeks a year. And so do billions of Muslims and non-Muslims because we are all too busy. Besides not drinking water every four hours is an abuse of the body. Allah would not want us to abuse our bodies. A more sensible way to show our unity and our love for Allah and Prohet Muhammad (PBUH) is to miss the evening meal which would be a healthier option. As for water we must drink water every four hours. I will still keep skipping lunch but will keep drinking wate when my body calls for it. Besides the Holy Quran requires all men to stay in our masjids and pray when we are fasting. So we must head to the mosques stay there when we are not working.
omar Jul 21, 2012 03:24pm
I am writing from Sweden where we stop eating 3 in the morning and break our fast 10 in the evening which accounts for about 19-20 hr fast. Last night I was so tired I couldn't even get up to gobble some milk, dates and water -a usual early breakfast that I do before going back to sleep. I am doing totally fine. Dont find myself dying or nearing to death. But yes to be truthful and honest I do feel tired and a little lazy than usual. Modern science proves that a human can live fairly easily without water and food for about 24 hours which in extreme cases can exceed to 3 days without water and 7 days with out food. Clearly fasting doesn't come anywhere close to both of these situations. Moreover, a new study published in prestigious Cell Metabolism paper shows that 2 groups of mice fed diet containing high cholesterol components. The 2 groups only differed in that 1 group was giving the diet ad libitum while other group was allowed to eat only during a certain portion of night. The results published were surprising, as it showed that the mice eating throughout the day turned obese and showed complications of metabolic diseases however the group fed diet only during a certain time in night consumed more food but were still lean and showed very little complications of metabolic disorders. Probably one of many scientific evidences that fasting does improve over-all metabolism of the body at least in mice. Those who are sick, in travel or cannot fast for some other genuine reasons are exempted from fasting in the Holy Quran, they can either fast when they are healthy or can pay charity instead.
mohammed meezan Jul 20, 2012 08:39pm
ramadan is not only to skipping foods or meals ..we can say tat it is a 1 month course to purify our soul nd our mind. Inshallah allah will helps us to bear this hot climate ....and by d way allah is merciful to all...
Za khan Jul 20, 2012 08:53pm
Ayaz Nazar kasim wow what kind of Ramadan you follow it's just a shame mate people like you invent new things in Islam and makes it worse think before you say!
Agha Ata Jul 20, 2012 09:18pm
There care 7 types of fasters. 1) Those who fast at home and also outside. 2) Those who fast at home but never outside. 3) Those who fast outside but never at home. 5) Those who fast on Sundays only. 6) Those who do not fast on Sundays. And finally 7) those who do not fast any where any day! They all attend Iftari, but very few of them attend Sehri. They all wear new clothes on Eid and celeberate it fully and with great joy. Around fifty percent say Namaz--e-Eid and pray for their families and Pakistan and their faces glow with joy when they come out of the mosques.
HM Canada Jul 21, 2012 12:44am
Ramadan in US and Canada will be more than 18 hours. And some places in US get really hot.
123 Jul 21, 2012 04:06am
I think Ayyaz skipped his meal for toooo long and nutritional deficiencies have got to his head ! the guy is probably kidding or has lost it !
Nighat Jul 21, 2012 06:50am
Ramadan is a month of faith... don't make it for weight gain! Lose weight to gain health. Happy Ramadan!
Jamal Jul 21, 2012 01:56pm
Aasalam o Aliakum, Brother Ayyaz I hope this message finds you in high spirit. I read your post and the working conditions you would have to endure during the month of Ramazan. May Allah ease it for you and your family. Rest assured, you are and never were alone in what you confront today. In good faith, I would like to point out at The Battle of Badr (Arabic ???) fought on Friday, March 17,624 CE during 17 Ramadhan 2 AH. Against 313 ill-equipped Muslims who were observing a fast, a force of 1000 non-believers flanked by war elephants, horses stood like an Iron wall. With Allah's help Muslims emerged victorious. Myriad personifications of patience embodied as a virtue, norm, code and standard can be derived from people around you. I remember the time when I was stuck with the thought of spending time in the mosque. I am clear in my mind that there is nothing better than to spend time in Masjid reciting Quran and further the understanding of it along with the Hadith. But, as you said the Holy Quran is clear in its commandments. Solitude and forsaking the world for religion is not permissible. One has to strike a balance while being stuck in this quagmire (the material world) Recitation of the holy Quran can be achieved while working at the office by reading Quran online. There are plenty of websites. It's almost the same as reciting while sitting in masijd.
Ayyaz nazar Kasim Jul 21, 2012 09:53am
Fasting during Ramdan may be pillar but fasting during the day and , especially, not drinking water during the day or at any time when the body calls for it is not part of the Pillar. One of the true pillars of Islam is the use of common sense. I live about 50 miles from Manhattan. I take the train at 6 in the morning. I get to my place of work by about 7.30. I leave work daily at 7 PM. I get home at 9 PM. All this to support my wife, my parents, her parents and our two children. My wife has too much work at home to earn a living. Both her parents and my parents are old. I cannot afford to lose my job. How I observe Ramzan is between me and Allah. I have no doubt that Allah will praise and welcome me into His arms when I die because I have been a good Muslim and I used common sense. Missing water and the day time meal is not common sense and that is offensive to Allah. When the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was alive the times were different. Most Muslims lived by trading or some other means. Many were fighters for Islam under the command of Muhammad and they had to fight the Meccans and the Jews and other unbelievers. So they had time during Ramzan to stay in the mosque while fasting. The Holy Quran is quite clear about that. It commands us to stay inside the mosque during the fasting. I do not yet but as my children grow older and, I should not really say say this, when the demands from my parents and in-laws are not there any more then I will spend the fasting period in the mosque subject to the work environment. How many of the mullahs and mullah type Muslim men spend the period between daybreak and sunset in the mosque praying as Allah commands them?