During Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began Monday, Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sensual pleasures from two hours before dawn until nightfall.
The timing of the holy month is set by the lunar calendar, and Ramadan shifts 11 days a year from the Gregorian calendar, moving it through the seasons in a 33-year cycle.
This year the amount of daylight during Ramadan and the length of the fasts are longer than in 2007.
Compared to winter months, when there can be as few as seven hours of daylight, the arrival of Ramadan in the summer and early fall brings both challenges and rewards, local Muslims said.
We re heading into approximately 14 or 15 hours of fasting, said Dr. S. Zaheer Hasan, a local physician and a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. You re hungry longer, thirsty longer. But the cycle is intended by God to give you more benefit.
Muslims begin fasting two hours before dawn, or around 5 a.m., and end their fast with a meal called iftar at sunset, now around 8 p.m.
The longer days also bring a lack of sleep, because we go to bed later at night and wake up earlier in the morning, Dr. Hasan said. We get four or five hours of sleep, but we take it as a blessing. God willing, we will endure.
Imam Farooq Abo-Elzahab of the Islamic Center said fasting is most difficult at the start of the holy month, which is set aside to observe God s revelation of the Qur an to the Prophet Mohammed.
Of course it is very hard the first two or three days. Nowadays, it is about 14, 15 hours long. But next year it will be even longer. In three years, it will be in July and that will be very tough, Imam Farooq said.
The long days of devotion and sacrifice build a sense of community among Muslims, the imam said.
It is very, very warming. People feel spiritually uplifted. There is more righteousness and focusing on God s word, Imam Farooq said. So it really is a month of calmness and tranquility. Families are more cohesive and kind to one another.
He said he will preach on helping victims of Hurricane Gustav, and that the mosque, located at the juncture of I-75 and I-475 in Perrysburg Township, will be offering iftar meals every night during Ramadan to travelers or students.
Imam Ibrahim S. Abdul-Rahim, of the Toledo Masjid of Al-Islam, said Ramadan is the model month.
We re supposed to do our best to model all the other 11 months after this month, as far as behavior and discipline and getting closer to God, Imam Ibrahim said. We re supposed to do that on a regular basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, but of course Ramadan is supposed to be the example. We try to keep that spirit as best as we can al year but with the ins and outs and struggles of life we tend to lose it, so it s a constant renewal process.
Denying the body brings greater spiritual awareness and more blessings, said Saleh Jabarin, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of Toledo.
You are more conscious of your own beliefs and your religious practices, he said. I think the fasting kind of puts another dimension on human beings and you ll find people to be more calm. I also think you become more conscious about seeing your surroundings and being aware of people and their behavior.
That is particularly true in caring for those less fortunate, Mr. Jabarin said.
You realize you have this bounty, you have plenty of food, and you are supposed to share it with those who do not have much, he said. The purpose of this [fasting] is to see and feel some suffering, to teach one to feel what it feels like for the poor and those who do not have much.
Yehia John Shousher, a local businessman and a former president of the Islamic Center, said giving to charity is one of the five principles of Islam, and many Muslims increase their giving during Ramadan.
A lot of people take the money they save on food and they give it to somebody, he said. It s part of the Islamic laws and regulations to give to the hungry.
There are limits to human endurance, something Islamic scholars addressed when asked to rule on how Muslims living in or visiting regions of extended daylight hours should observe Ramadan, Mr. Shousher said.
In some parts of Alaska, for example, there are 24 hours of sunlight during the summer.
Let s say you re in Alaska or Greenland or northern Canada, Mr. Shousher said. Muslims can fast for 16 hours and there will still be sunshine and light. My brother was in
Greenland in the Army and at midnight you could still read the paper. Islamic scholars have agreed that you should fast up to 16 hours, and that s the maximum you could go.
During Ramadan, which this year ends Oct. 1, the public is invited to an iftar, or meal of fast-breaking, around 8 p.m. on Saturdays at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, 25877 Scheider Rd., Perrysburg Township.
Imam Ibrahim said the public is invited to an iftar on Sundays at 8 p.m. during Ramadan at the Toledo Masjid of Al-Islam, 828 Ewing St.