Muslims steel themselves for toughest fasting
With temperatures in the region routinely climbing above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and days at their longest of the year, governments are trying to alleviate the hardships of the monthlong sunrise-to-sunset fast. Morocco resets the clock so believers can break the fast an hour early. Pakistan promises to reduce daily blackouts, which can last up to 22 hours.
Public servants are allowed to work fewer hours. Despite the hardship, for many Muslims it’s the most anticipated part of the year — a time of family togetherness and religious devotion, a break from routine. Muslims believe God revealed the first verses of their holy book, the Quran, to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan.
The Muslim lunar calendar moves back through the seasons, so Ramadan starts 11 days earlier each year under the Western calendar. The last time Ramadan started in mid-July was in 1980. Winter fasts are easier because of cooler temperatures and shorter days.
This year, Ramadan starts in most parts of the Muslim world on Friday, though some mark the beginning on Saturday. “There’s no choice but to bear the heat,” shrugged Jalal Qandil, 38, a sun-browned, sweating construction worker in Gaza City, father of five school-age children. “If I don’t work, we won’t eat this Ramadan. But God will help us.”—AP