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Long summer days mean long fasting periods during Ramadan

Badie Ali executive vice president MPI MediGroup reads from koran his office first day Ramadan OrlPark Illinois Monday August 1

Badie Ali, executive vice president of MPI Media Group, reads from the koran in his office on the first day of Ramadan in Orland Park, Illinois, Monday, August, 1, 2011. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 14, 2011 12:17AM

The fasting from dawn to sunset that is required of observant Muslims during Ramadan seemingly would be more challenging when the holy month falls during the summer.

The days are longer, the weather hotter, thirst more unrelenting.

But Badie Ali, of Orland Park, doesn’t see it that way. He calls it an opportunity rather than a challenge. “I could sneak a sip of water, but I don’t because I know God is watching,” Ali, 28, said.

Not even a swig of water is allowed during daylight hours during Ramadan, which officially began Sunday night. But once the sun goes down, Ali will down a lot of water to prepare for the next day.

All healthy Muslims abstain from food, drink, sexual relations and nicotine during Ramadan, with the fast broken at sunset each night with a meal known as “iftar,” traditionally begun by consuming a date to commemorate the Prophet Mohammed’s habit.

Ramadan begins about 10 days earlier every year because the holiday is based on the shorter lunar calendar. So it’s now beginning when daylight lasts about 16 hours — and when temperatures around here regularly have been in the 90s.

“The heat really puts the burden on thirst,” said Shaykh Kifah Mustapha, imam of The Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview. “Very few people complain about not eating, but many complain about the thirst.”

While fasting is a bit harder in the summer months, “It is not impossible,” said Rafeeq Jaber, 61, of Oak Lawn.

“It is psychological. It’s a matter of determination and will power.”

Manal Abdellatif, of Alsip, knows she will have a difficult time not drinking water during the day, but her family tries to keep cool and avoid salty foods so they won’t become too thirsty.

“I think I had five big cups of cold water this morning at 4 a.m.,” she said on Monday, the first day of fasting. “[Before dawn] we usually have dates, some milk, maybe a fruit like a banana, and some protein as well.”

Those fasting agreed the first few days are the hardest, but after that, their bodies have adjusted and fasting becomes easier. The days also get shorter as the sun starts to set earlier, if only by a minute or so per day.

“Some people are sad when the month is done,” said Saqib Mohajir, of Orland Park. “It’s really a spiritual high. You went through this struggle and now everything is easier.”

Contributing: Joanne Von Alroth and Hannah Kohut

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