- Associated Press - Monday, July 25, 2011

MIAMI — The Muslim holy month of Ramadan falls during the long, hot days of August this year, and Muslim Americans are getting ready to accommodate the daylight fasts required during Ramadan with adjustments in their schedules and eating habits.

It can be even tougher for Muslims in America than for their counterparts in majority-Muslim countries, where business and society change to accommodate Ramadan, says Dr. Elizabeth Rourke, an internist at Boston Medical Center.

“In the U.S., everyone is required to do what they would do ordinarily, the entire month,” Dr. Rourke says, “so it makes the fast much more demanding for American Muslims.”

Mubarakah Ibrahim, a personal trainer, hopes to cram all her clients in the morning when she has the most energy. She’ll serve vegetables as the first course when her family breaks their fast in the evenings to make sure they get their nutrients for the day. And she’ll buy her four children - ranging in age from 10 to 17 - shiny new water bottles as a reminder to hydrate during the hours they’re not fasting.

“We know spirituality can get you through anything,” says Mrs. Ibrahim, who lives in New Haven, Conn. “But the choice really is, you can suffer through it and still do it, or you can do it and do it efficiently without making your health suffer.”

Ramadan requires avoidance of food and water during daytime hours. This year Ramadan begins Aug. 1, when the period from dawn to sunset in the continental U.S. can range from about 14 hours to about 16 hours. The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle, which is shorter than the sun-based Gregorian calendar, so Ramadan creeps up 11 days every year. Ramadan can last 29 or 30 days, again depending on the lunar cycle.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the most important duties in Islam, one that even the not-so-religious typically observe. Children are not required to fast until they hit puberty, though many start building up to it when they’re younger with half-day fasts. Also exempt are the elderly, women who are pregnant or nursing, and people with chronic medical conditions.

But even for healthy Muslims, the daily fast from dawn until sunset can be grueling.

Sheikh Ali, a college student from Boca Raton, Fla., tries to ease his body into Ramadan mode by fasting intermittently the month prior, a practice of Muhammad that some people emulate.

The premed chemistry major also extols the benefits of eating a high-fiber breakfast, like whole grain cereal, especially in the pre-dawn meal before fasting to help keep him feeling full.

Still, many Muslims say they won’t do much differently this year and they’re not too worried about the summer Ramadan.

“Once you’ve done it for this long,” says Natasha Chida, a medical resident at the University of Miami who has been fasting since she was in middle school, “it’s not really something that’s physically difficult, it’s just about continuing to learn self-restraint.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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