The Islamic holy month of Ramadan kicks off Thursday night, and for many Muslims on Long Island, it will mean up to 16 hours a day with no food or water.
Ramadan follows the lunar calender, so this year it starts in mid-July when days in the Northern Hemisphere are among their longest -- and so far they've also been among the hottest in years. Muslims must fast from sunrise -- about 5:30 a.m. on Long Island this week -- until sunset, about 8:30 p.m.
"This year and next year, it's going to be tough," said Dr. Hafiz Rehman, a pediatrician in Bay Shore and a leader of the Masjid Darul Quran mosque there. "It's going to be a little taxing, but it still has to be done."
Considered one of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan commemorates the time when the Prophet Muhammad received the Quran, the holiest book in Islam. During Ramadan, Muslims read the entire Quran aloud in mosques, one chapter a night for 30 nights.
Ramadan is also a time of purification and renewal. Muslims are encouraged to give to charity, pray often and behave as best they can, said Habeeb Ahmed, a leader of the Westbury-based Islamic Center of Long Island.
The holy month will be observed by about 75,000 Muslims on Long Island and 1.4 billion around the world. Some will travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Islam's holiest city.
Rehman said that as challenging as Ramadan may be for some participants here, it will be even more difficult in other nations. He recently traveled to the heavily Muslim nation of Malaysia, where temperatures were above 100 with high humidity.
On Long Island, he noted, most Muslims will have access to air-conditioning.
While Muslims will go for long stretches without food and water, they'll also be short on sleep.
Rehman said he likely will not get to bed until just after midnight each night after the reading of the Quran, and then he will be up by 3:30 a.m. to have a small breakfast before the first morning prayer at his mosque at about 4:30 a.m.
He may be able to get a little more sleep from around 5 to 7 a.m. before getting ready for his daily rounds in the hospital starting at 8 a.m.
Ahmed said some Muslims try to get in a little extra rest during the day with short naps, if their work schedule allows it.
Others take some vacation days to try to catch up on rest.
The first couple of days of Ramadan "usually are difficult," he said.
But, he said, "you realize you are doing it for a very lofty goal -- trying to please your maker's soul."
A HOLY MONTH
Ramadan starts Thursday night with the reading of the Quran in mosques, one chapter every night for 30 nights.
Muslim faithful are required to fast during Ramadan, eating and drinking nothing from sunrise to sunset -- from about 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Long Island. They pray five times a day, plus the Quran reading about 10 p.m.
Ramadan is considered one of the five pillars of Islam and commemorates the time when the Prophet Muhammad received the Quran, the holiest book in Islam.
It is also a time of purification and renewal when Muslims are encouraged to give to charity, pray often and behave as best as they can.
The holy month will be observed by about 75,000 Muslims on Long Island and 1.4 billion around the world.