Ramadan proves challenging but worthwhile sacrifice in summer heat

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Nahla, a young girl whose mother chose to not give her daughter’s last name, drinks water at the Nueces Mosque on Wednesday evening in a crowd of women. Ramadan is an Islamic holy month where followers traditionally fast during daylight hours.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

After Ramadan began Monday, UT’s practicing Muslim students will abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset — a challenge when temperatures have reached 107 degrees twice this week.

Ramadan is from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1 this year. Pre-pharmacy junior Pari Wayafee said Ramadan becomes more challenging every year because it falls on the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, which gets shifted back around two weeks yearly. She said the two-week change has moved Ramadan into mid-summer this year, which means dealing with extreme heat and humidity.

“It takes a lot of energy out of you, especially in this time of heat in Austin walking from class to class,” Wayafee said. “It really drains you. The worst thing is not so much the hunger. It’s the thirst that’s difficult.”

Wayafee said only the able and healthy fast during Ramadan. She said young children, the elderly, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating and those with health problems do not fast or fast only as much as they can.

Engineering junior Rakin Mazid said the summer’s high temperatures make breaking the daily fast at sundown that much more enjoyable. She said the promise of a collective meal with friends and family in the evening allows her to get through her day.

“The hunger bounces off, but the thirst is what you feel,” Mazid said. “You really enjoy going through it all at the end of the day. It’s one of the months that every Muslim looks forward to.”

Arabic language and literature senior Mason Merrill said the high heat of August makes fasting even more meaningful because the word Ramadan makes reference to scorched earth.

“You’re using the heat of fasting to burn away sin,” Merrill said.

Plan II senior Isbah Raja said she stays indoors as much as possible to stay hydrated while fasting. She said when the summer heat cannot be avoided, she takes many naps throughout the day to replenish her energy.

Raja said Ramadan is an especially important time because it brings together all Muslims and gives them a sense of community. It is a sacred time to get rid of bad habits, learn patience and let go of worldly items, she added.

“Politics and social issues aside, this is a sacred time for prayer,” Raja said. “What’s interesting is regions overseas that have turmoil very often call a cease-fire during this month.”

Raja said many UT students gather for late night snacks at 24-hour restaurants to eat before the sun comes up. She said these gatherings are a fun way to celebrate Ramadan collectively during a time when many students are away from their families.

Middle eastern studies senior Yajaira Fraga is experiencing Ramadan for the first time this year. Although she is not Muslim, she said she wanted to understand a practice that is important to many of her friends.

“It’s something you have to really just submerge yourself in,” Fraga said. “All of my friends have been very supportive of pushing me along.”

Fraga said the hardest part of practicing Ramadan is keeping up with the five daily prayers Muslims practice.

“I go in there and I try to keep up with their moves, but they go too fast for me,” Fraga said. “I will learn them by the end of the month, although I don’t know the language.”

Printed on Thursday, August 4, 2011 as: Ramadan heats up