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Ramadan cheat sheet


Tonight, Ramadan sets in. It’s the month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims fast each day from dawn until sunset. With the month soon upon us, families are stocking up on dates (the food traditionally used to open the fast), charities are organizing fundraising drives and civic volunteer days and mosques around the world are preparing for optimum spiritual exercise. It’s the holiday season, summer style, but without the turkey, and potatoes, and corn, and apple cider…alright, food generally.
Because of the hot and long summer days, and an all-around aura of vacation and laziness, Ramadan won’t exactly be a piece of cake (we know–it’s ironic). Last year, we provided some Ramadan advice to fasting Muslims’ non-Muslim co-workers. This year, the fasters themselves have sought advice, asking us imploringly: How will we survive?  MORE  

The Muslim lunar calendar moves back through the seasons, so Ramadan starts 11 days earlier each year under the Western calendar. The last time Ramadan started in mid-July was in 1980. Winter fasts are easier because of cooler temperatures and shorter days. This year, Ramadan starts in most parts of the Muslim world on Friday, though some mark the beginning on Saturday.
"There's no choice but to bear the heat," shrugged Jalal Qandil, 38, a sun-browned, sweating construction worker in Gaza City, father of five school-age children. "If I don't work, we won't eat this Ramadan. But God will help us."
Other laborers said they would quietly break their fast, trusting that God understands.
"Sometimes it's so hot, that we can't touch the metal poles on the scaffolding without gloves," said Munir, a 26-year-old Pakistani laborer in Dubai. "You cannot work in these conditions without water. I am religious and respect Ramadan, but it also is not intended to make you sick or put you in danger."
Many clerics say that's OK. Islam already gives exemptions from the fast for those in certain circumstances — the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, children and travelers.
Religious authorities in the United Arab Emirates allow laborers to break their fast if the temperature exceeds 122 Fahrenheit (50 Celsius). Other Muslim scholars say, regardless of the temperature, laborers can break their fast if they feel weak or thirsty. They have to make up the days later, said Sheik Mohammed Ali, an Iraqi Shiite cleric.
"They should have the little food and drink that can make them able to work," he said.
Dr. Sarmad Hamid, a physician in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, said people should use common sense and stay out of the sun — and those who work outdoors, such as traffic police, should not be expected to fast.
Observing the fast is a particular challenge in Gaza, a tiny sliver of land between Israel and Egypt, ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas. After years of strife and border blockades, Gaza is propped up by U.N. food aid and suffers daily hours-long blackouts.
Gazans have to make do without fans to cool sweltering, crowded apartments, without TVs to distract children and unemployed husbands, without ovens to cook and without water because the electric pumps are idle. As summer heat rises, some have taken to sleeping on floor tiles, the coolest part of their house.
Now, they'll go through all that hungry and thirsty.
For many exhausted housewives, their biggest enemy will be boredom and exhaustion that erode family relations and the joy of this usually festive month.
"Frankly, men, women and children, everybody is sick of each other," said a 52-year-old mother of 10, who would only be identified as Umm Mohammed. "Especially the men: They just sit at home and harass the children."  MORE

Comments

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