Muslim students and professors at the UA began fasting yesterday during Ramadan, a holy month-long holiday commemorating the revealing of the Quran.
Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and lasts 29 to 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon, said Scott C. Lucas, an assistant professor of Near Eastern studies.
During this time Muslims must refrain from all food, drink and sexual activity from daybreak until sunset, which can be quite difficult, Lucas said.
"It does require some discipline, especially when the temperatures are high and the days are long," Lucas said. "However, it is amazing how much work one can get done during the time one normally eats lunch."
The purpose of fasting is for purification and self-restraint, and also to thank God for revealing the Quran to the prophet Muhammad, said Miriam Hoda, a physiology senior and student coordinator of the Muslim Student Association.
Muslims are also supposed to avoid anger, control their temper and show compassion for the less fortunate during fasting, Hoda said.
"During this month only, Muslims believe that the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed," Hoda said.
Although Muslims believe fasting is important during Ramadan, there are some exceptions to the rule.
Those who are excused from fasting are usually sick, traveling, too young or too old, women who are pregnant, and those who are mentally and/or physically handicapped, Hoda said.
Muslim Student Association activities chairman and Near Eastern studies graduate student Zachariah Azar said Ramadan generally puts a big emphasis on family.
"People invite friends and family and make communion together at sunset, breaking their fast together and praying in congregation together and (holding) nightly prayers at the mosque," Azar said.
Hoda said she traditionally celebrates Ramadan with her family.
"My parents would wake up my sister and I before the sun rises during Ramadan so we could all eat in the early morning," Hoda said. "Ramadan was a time where we could all take time out to concentrate on strengthening family bonds."
Now that Hoda is away from home to pursue her studies, she goes to the Islamic Center of Tucson, on First Street and Tyndall Avenue, for prayer.
"It's like a second family there; there are many people from different countries around the world all gathering to break their fast and pray in union," Hoda said.
Lucas said he personally celebrates Ramadan by improving his conduct.
"I try to be on my best behavior and take some extra time to read the Quran," Lucas said.
Sarah Dehaybi, a pre-physiology junior and president of the Muslim Student Association, said she also honors the holy month of Ramadan by reading the Quran as well.
"We wake every morning before the sun rises to eat. After eating, we read the Quran and wait to pray the predawn prayer," Dehaybi said.
Muslims will mark the completion of the fast Nov. 4 by celebrating the holy day of Eid ul Fitr, Lucas said.
Traditionally, families and friends gather on this day to commemorate the holy month.
"The holiday or Eid occurs during the days immediately after Ramadan," Lucas said.
Overall, Lucas said, Ramadan is a crucial part of the Muslim faith.
"I think that it is safe to say that Ramadan is the most special month for most Muslims," Lucas said.