The Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts Sunday night at sunset, and will stretch out over some of the longest and potentially hottest days of the year — making it especially challenging for the faithful who must go without food or drink for up to 17 straight hours.
“It’s going to be hot, long days,” said Dr. Hafiz Rehman, a leader of Masjid Darul Quran in Bay Shore, one of the largest mosques on Long Island. “It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to do it.”
Rehman, a pediatrician in Bay Shore, said he will eat his first meal of the day between 3:30 and 3:45 a.m. before the first rays of sun appear, and then not eat again until after sunset about 8:30 p.m.
Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, and is one of the five pillars of Islam. It commemorates the time when the prophet Muhammad received the Quran, the holiest book in Islam, from the angel Gabriel in the year 610.
Many of Long Island’s estimated 80,000 Muslims are expected to fast during Ramadan, which for most Muslims will end July 5. Ramadan’s dates are based on the lunar calendar, so which day it starts depends upon the believer’s interpretation of when the new moon appears. Some are starting their observance this year on Monday night.
During Ramadan, the faithful start the day with prayers around sunrise, and end the day with longer prayers that start about 10:10 p.m. and go past midnight. Then they head home and get a few hours of sleep before getting up for the next round of prayers at sunrise.
During the late-night prayers, the Quran is read aloud — one chapter each night until the entire holy book is read by the end of the holy month.
Ramadan is also a time of self-reflection, charity and making amends with those one has offended, said Habeeb Ahmed, a leader of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, one of the oldest and largest mosques on Long Island. Many Muslims say it is a joyful and spiritually fulfilling month.
Internationally, hundreds of thousands of Muslims will mark Ramadan by making a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, considered the holiest gathering site of Islam in the world.
Even though Ramadan is coming on some of the longest and likely warmest days of the year, American Muslims will have it easier than Muslims in Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan, where temperatures are higher and air conditioning is scarce, Ahmed said.
“Definitely we are in a better position than most of the people, so we should not be complaining,” he said.
Rehman said he was talking to a friend in Pakistan who said temperatures there reached 118 degrees last week. His mosque will offer food to the faithful and anyone else who wants to attend each night about 8:30 p.m. as the faithful break the daily fast. Hundreds are expected to attend.
Ramadan will end with Eid ul-Fitr, a three-day festival marked by special feasts.