Fasting Muslims Fill Up On Faith

September 19, 2008

Author: Meredith Heagney

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

It was the kind of September afternoon that begs for a breeze or a raindrop -- anything to take the sun down a notch.

The 90-degree heat was getting to the players on the Hilliard Weaver Middle School soccer team. Sweaty and tired, they rushed to a group drinking fountain.

Rania Khamees, 13, stayed in the goal, firing balls into the net.

She's a practicing Muslim, and it's Ramadan, so she's fasting during daylight hours. That means no food, no water and no gum. She still goes to school all day and practices with her team nearly every afternoon.

Her teammates can't believe she plays on an empty stomach and in such hot weather. She dismisses their concerns with a smile and a shrug.

She eats before the sun comes up. On this day, breakfast was at 5 a.m. The night before, she had broken her fast just after 8 p.m., when the sun went down.

Ramadan started Sept. 1 and will end on or close to Oct. 1, depending on the lunar calendar. It starts about 11 days earlier every year, said Mouhamed Tarazi, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Columbus.

That means the days are longer and hotter this Ramadan than they were last year. It will be even worse next year.

Rania doesn't see it as such a big deal. She's been fasting since she was 6 years old.

"Allah had asked us to," she said. "It's only one month out of 12. It's a little thing to give back because he gives us so much."

Non-Muslims might find it unimaginable to go the whole month without food or water during the day, but Muslims say they get used to it and God helps them through it.

They believe abstaining from food and drink shows gratitude to God for revealing the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad 1,400 years ago. It also fosters self-restraint, said Asma Mobin-Uddin, president of the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.