For Summer Ramadan, Faithful Go Nearly 17 Hours Daily Without Food, Drink

woman-prayingFor Summer Ramadan, Faithful Go Nearly 17 Hours Daily Without Food, Drink

By Sameea Kamal, The Hartford Courant

Hena Zakir is training to be an EMT: checking vital signs, running medical tests, talking to patients and assessing them for trauma – all the while, going nearly 17 hours without food.

And Tuesday was just Day 1 of her 30-day Ramadan fast.

Zakir is Muslim. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, requires the faithful to abstain from food and drink, along with sexual activity and habits like smoking, from sunrise to sunset each day.

The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, which varies from the solar calendar. That means the start date of Ramadan moves up roughly 11 days each year, so while about a dozen years ago it was in December -- when sunset, when fasters can eat again, is before 5 p.m. -- it's now in the summer, where the sun doesn't set till about 8:30 p.m.

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There are about 6 million Muslims in the U.S. and almost 2,000 mosques, Muslim schools and Islamic centers, according to the Council of American-Islamic Relations. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey found that 77 percent of all U.S. Muslims said fasting during Ramadan is "very important."

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For Zakir, it's a time of gratitude, and empathizing with the poor.

"We go through a month of not being able to eat during the day and we're like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I had to do that,'" she said. "For some people that's their whole life. So it kind of puts everything in perspective." (Read the full article)