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Fasting for 30 days can be intimidating enough, but fasting for 30 days during the summer--in the desert--can be downright terrifying to think about. Since arriving in Phoenix two months ago from St. Louis, I've been comparing the heat here to what I assumed Hell would feel like.
And now I'm preparing myself for Islam's holy month.
Ramadan consists of about 30 days of fasting, with Muslims refraining from eating and drinking anything from before sunrise 'til sunset. No food. No water. The point behind this is to remind people not to take what they have for granted. It's also meant to teach patience and encourage spirituality. Even Muslims who aren't especially religious throughout the year may be inspired to pick up a Quran and read a few verses during this month, for we believe it was during Ramadan that God revealed the first passages of this holy book to the Prophet Muhammad. And in case you were wondering why Ramadan is starting earlier than it did last year (it's assumed to begin next Monday), this is because it's based on lunar sightings.
This will be my first Ramadan in Phoenix. When it dawned on me that I'd be spending the first week of this month fasting here (before returning back home to the midwest), I was nervous, to say the least. I'm constantly carrying heavy photography equipment under a sun that I could swear is much closer to the folks here, always hovering...so close....
So I (half jokingly) asked my mother's friend who lives out in Mesa if there was some kind of exception that would allow us to drink water while fasting in Arizona. He chuckled and said no (but just for the record, there are exceptions to fasting: if you're too young, too old, sick, pregnant, traveling or on your period, you can sit it out and watch as your fellow Muslims grumble about hunger). After I got over my disappointment that there's no Arizona clause in the Quran, I realized that fasting here--and how to prepare for it--isn't all that different from St. Louis. After all, it's still ungodly hot there, it's just a different kind of heat.
- Although it may be difficult, try to avoid being out in the sun even more than you already try avoiding it.
- Try to steer clear of strenuous activities. These may involve, but are not limited to, political discussions surrounding the country's debt crisis and that whole health care thing.
- Carry a toothbrush and toothpaste. Turns out if you've gone the entire day without eating, your breath will be a fearsome thing to behold for your friends and colleagues around you.
- Ramadan is also about Muslims being on their best behavior. So, try to avoid punching your co-worker when he or she complains about "being starving" after just having finished a fruit parfait an hour earlier.
Check back with us next week for tips from local Muslims on places worth breaking your fast. And please share your own in our comment section.