Imagine going a whole day without anything to eat or a drop to drink during these long, hot summer days. This is what Muslims began doing at the beginning of August and will continue doing during the month of Ramadan. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Farrukh Hasan of Shawnee, Kan., said it is definitely a challenge because the days are so long, and the weather is so hot. Thirst and exhaustion are especially a challenge for Muslims who work outside in the excessive heat.
"Even though I have air conditioning," Hasan said, "I miss water because I usually drink a lot of water.
"I'm from India, and most people don't have air conditioning there. This makes us think of how fortunate we are in this country. Even our cars are air-conditioned."
When she was growing up in India, she and her schoolmates would fast with the adults. People got used to it, even in the hot months.
"It's amazing the tolerance of our bodies," Hasan said.
During Ramadan, she and her husband start their day with a small meal before dawn. They eat again after sunset, then go to the mosque for an extra prayer. They go to bed about midnight, so Muslims are not only food- deprived but also sleep- deprived, unless they can catch a nap during the day.
Fasting helps get rid of bad eating habits, Hasan said, and it's a confirmation of her strength.
"It is very satisfying to know that if I want to do something, I can do it," she said. "It shows you that you can handle the difficulties in life. I come out of Ramadan stronger."
Many Muslims say fasting brings them closer to God.
"When we fast, we also are supposed to stay away from a lot of immoral things and think more about God," said Riyaz Lareef of Olathe, Kan.
The intention is that if Muslims abstain from harmful things during Ramadan, they can keep it up the rest of the year.
"During Ramadan, we are to stop doing any kind of sins as much as we can, not just stop eating and drinking," he said. "The purpose is to teach us to stay away from doing any sins throughout the year."
Also, he said, researchers have discovered medical benefits from fasting, such as ridding the body of toxins.
"These medical benefits are not the reason to fast but a side benefit," he said.
When Christians ask Khaldoun Ahmad, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, why he's not eating, it gives him the opportunity to tell them about Islam, he said. For him, fasting teaches patience, and he likes getting together with friends who invite him to their homes to break the fast.
Tanveer Papa of Leawood said the first couple of days are always difficult because of the lack of water. Also, he's a coffee drinker, plugging in the coffeepot before he starts getting ready for work.
Now that first cup is at about 4:15 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. He also drinks a lot of water each day before and after fasting.