For nearly 13 daylight hours during Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and other sensual pleasures.
Many Muslims use the Islamic holy month to temporarily give up a vice -- smoking.
Now, three area Muslim organizations, including physicians groups, are urging smokers to kick the habit for good.
Ramadan began Sept. 13, per the Islamic lunar calendar, and will likely end Oct. 12 or soon thereafter with the sighting of the new moon.
"The idea is that addiction is broken a little bit through their willpower during that month," said Shiraz Malik, executive director of the Islamic Medical Association of North America, which is based in Lombard. "It's halfway on the road to where we want them to be. We want to basically take them down the other half of the road, which is quitting cold turkey."
The groups are posting fliers and plan educational seminars about the health hazards of smoking and benefits of quitting at area mosques, Islamic schools and community centers. The message is targeted at the estimated 400,000 Muslims in Chicago and the suburbs.
That message is converting 49-year-old Tariq Khawaja of Lincolnwood from a 14-year smoking habit. Khawaja gave up cigarettes the second day of this Ramadan.
"The whole day when I was fasting, I did not feel any craving for smoking," said Khawaja, publisher of the Urdu Times weekly newspaper, which circulates in Chicago and area suburbs. "And then I thought that if I can stay a whole day, let's quit for the whole life then."
Historic and contemporary Islamic scholars agree smoking should be viewed as "haraam," or not permissible under Islamic law, similar to alcohol or gambling.
Yet unlike alcohol, smoking is not explicitly forbidden anywhere in the Quran, Islam's holy text. That left room for ambiguity before the health hazards of smoking became apparent.
"Smoking in general is antithetical to the Islamic ideal of respect and care for one's body," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Rehab said narcotics are also not explicitly banned in the Quran, but scholars agree on their prohibition for the same reason, that it is bad for the body. (MORE)