Iraq’s hot summer adds to challenge of Ramadan fast

September 15, 2008

When I was nine years old, I began fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It is a religious duty I love to carry out each year, to experience the sense of unity with Muslims who don’t eat or drink from dawn until sunset.

Women carry water supplies in Baghdad/Kareem RaheemBut this year the chronic shortages of electricity and water supplies that plague the Iraqi capital Baghdad — combined with Ramadan falling during a very hot summer — has forced many to abandon the fast at times.

This saddens me but I don’t blame them because I also have had to stop fasting on Friday and Saturday, my days off from work, because of frequent power outages at home.

One Friday during this Ramadan my eight-year-old son saw me drinking water during the fasting period. I confessed to him that I was not fasting.

I should have been a symbol of strength for him just like my mother was to me during my childhood.On the first day of Ramadan, my son said he wanted to fast so I encouraged him to do so.

He made it until 1 p.m., when thirst forced him to drink water.

Baghdad vendor sells sweets during Ramadan/Ali Abu Shish

My mother, who I enjoy preparing food and sweets to break the fast with, managed to fast only for the first two days of Ramadan. After that, she had to stop. A friend of mine told me she fainted on the first day and said she would not be able to complete the fasting month. Muslims in Iraq are fasting for around 14 hours, until the fourth prayer of the day at sunset. Like Muslims around the world, they can eat and drink after the sun has set until the next morning’s predawn prayer.

One of my colleagues at my office — where a big generator keeps the power on all day — described fasting this year as “hard” because of the heat and power cuts and water shortages.

But he said he was determined to keep fasting until Ramadan finishes at the end of September. I wish I could do the same.


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Allah Ta’ala says in the Quran : “And when My slaves ask you concerning Me, then surely I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls to Me. (Surah Baqarah Verse 186).

In the month of Ramadhaan there are two times when we should take special care to make dua : at the time of Iftaar (breaking the fast) and the time of Suhoor (beginning the fast). From the hadith we learn that duas are readily accepted by Allah during these times.

Remember my friend that Ramadhaan is a month of forgiveness.

The remembrance of Allah is consoling, pleasant and elevating.

It is a means of strengthening the bond between man and his Creator.

Posted by Jalil | Report as abusive

Dear Asil

As I understand it, fasting is in fact a study of edurance, where during the day you face the discomfort of fasting with prayer and patience, so naturally I cannot understand where your colleague’s description of it as ‘hard’ or ‘easy’. After all, before there was running water or electricity there were muslims fasting in Baghdad and surely Ramadan coincided with summer months sometimes. However, if the conditions do not allow you to fast during the day to the point of illness, as it was in your mother’s case, or where you find yourself after sunset without access to water or food, then of course you can fast the days you were forced to miss at a later time, especially if a physician says you must.
The thing about Islam is that it is a faith of moderacy: You are not to overtax yourself to the point of endangering your health, but at the same time you are not supposed to go to the opposite extreme of being overly lax either over the unavoidable discomfort of summer thirst, if it does not endanger you. I think a responsible Muslim would understand this balance and according to it. In the end, I’m sure that God accepts doing your best in judging how to follow His instructions , even if your judgement proves wrong in the end, He is ever wise in the grace of His mercy and compassion. With that, I leave you in God’s blessings. Best of luck to you and yours, and happy Ramadan.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

This article is a sign of the times. It is also symbolic of the weak faith Iraq’s people have. May Allah help us all.

Posted by Omar | Report as abusive

Moslems throughout the centuries, would fast during Ramadhan. Sometimes Ramadhan was in the winter, sometimes in the summer. One thing for sure, there was
no central cooling or heating.

Posted by Stephen Kayara | Report as abusive

The previous comments were good. I wonder about “had to stop fasting…because of frequent power outages at home”–is it because the AC and fans went off? It would seem to be easier to fast on your days off, because one would have more time for sleep. As for water shortages, water would be stored in containers until it was time to drink, right?

Aseel, your mother fasted until she fainted. Do you think you can try a little harder?

Response to the comment posted by Omar, “symbolic of the weak faith Iraq’s people have”–I would think the symbols of weak faith are the dead bodies found on the street that are the result of Muslims killing Muslims. What could demonstrate a worse lack of faith than killing a Muslim?

Posted by William of Qazaqstan | Report as abusive

Conditions are nice enough for you to write your blog?

Posted by Jefferson | Report as abusive

Why would Allah/God endorse, approve of, or appreciate a “sacrifice” like Ramadhan that is not healthy for the human body in any way, including metabolism, endurance, energy levels, etc. I guess I don’t get it. Lent is considered a sacrifice for God, but is not debilitating to the human body.

Posted by ralph | Report as abusive

P.S. to last post: I used to live in a neighborhood that had many Muslims. During Ramadhan, they really seemed to get ill, including a drop in mental clarity and a real hard time going to work. I felt sorry for them, but I guess they had their higher purpose intact . . .

Posted by ralph | Report as abusive

Fasting provides benefits for the body, and has been a practice in different societies throughout history. More importantly, fasting provides benefits for the mind/spirit. There are examples of fasting in the Bible, including the famous example in the NT that included 40 days of fasting.

Encountering some struggle and some difficulty in life produces good results. Many Muslims are able to fast with relative ease, especially if they have fasted from time to time throughout the year (recommended or optional fasting beyond the month of Ramadan).

Posted by William of Qazaqstan | Report as abusive