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Despite the extreme heat that has faced observers of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began a little over a week ago and requires fasting from dawn to sunset, most say that they have not changed their observance in response to the high temperatures.
"People all over the world observe Ramadan," said Sayyid Syeed, the national director for the Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America in Washington. "What heat we are experiencing here in America, there are some who have even more heat who are closer to the Equator -- they wouldn't change and we wouldn't change."
When temperatures rise as high as they have during this year's Ramadan, the morning meal before sunrise and the meal that follows sunset take on particular significance.
Sarah Ronan, an office administrator at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, said Muslim observers wake up at 4 a.m. to eat a light meal and drink plenty of liquid in preparation for the day of fasting.
"We make a point of getting up and drinking as much water as we can, staying away from caffeine, and staying away from fatty and fried foods," Ms. Ronan said.
She also noted that the heat certainly makes observing the holy month more difficult for those individuals who work outside and perspire more over the course of the day.
Yet for those who observe Ramadan, the additional difficulties associated with the heat are all part of the underlying significance of the holy month.
"It is not easy, but it is the struggle that is jihad," Imam Farooq Abo Elzahab of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo said of the Islamic term that can refer to an individual struggle that may entail spiritual self-control and willpower out of devotion to Islam.
Sheikh Rahim Al-Saedy, the imam of the Fatemah Islamic Center in Toledo, said that he is not aware of anyone who has changed observance of the holy month as a result of the extreme heat.
While this summer's heat is certainly difficult, Mr. Syeed said that the month of Ramadan is held according to the lunar calendar as opposed to the solar calendar and that the holy month will change seasons over the course of several years, so observers won't always have to deal with the summer heat.
Mr. Syeed said that since moving to America, his family has fasted during almost every month of the year because of the rotation. "Our fellow Muslims in Argentina are going through the winter season now," he said. "Everybody gets the same opportunity to fast during the winter, summer, and so on, so seasons are not so critical."
"This kind of weather is maybe every 30 years or so," seconded Imam Farooq. "It is unusual, and when it comes in the summer it will be tough, but within two to three years it will go back to nice weather."
Contact Madeline Buxton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6368.