Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

After the Fast Comes the Feast

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

After the Fast Comes the Feast

Article excerpt

It was mid-afternoon -- late for lunch -- as customers lined up at his family's restaurant, Salem's Market and Grill in the Strip District, but Abdul Salem didn't join them. He hadn't eaten for many hours and wouldn't eat for several more.

On Friday, Mr. Salem, 31, of Bethel Park joined Muslims around the world in observing the start of Ramadan, a holy month that calls for prayer and fasting for followers of Islam.

That means -- even for Muslims like Mr. Salem and his 14 employees who make their livelihood preparing meals -- abstaining from both food and water from dawn until dusk each day.

"At some points, it is difficult, but that's our job," Mr. Salem said.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is not easy, and it's not meant to be, said Kaukab Chughtai, a stay-at-home mom who lives in Trafford and is Muslim.

"That's the whole point, that you feel the hardship for others, and then learn from it," she said.

Yet this month, especially for Muslims who live in warmer parts of the world, the fast may be more difficult than in years past. It is the first time since 1980 that Ramadan has begun in mid-July.

The start of Ramadan is determined by the Muslim lunar calendar, which moves backwards through the seasons, so the religious month starts 11 days earlier each year under the Western calendar.

Fasts in the winter are easier since temperatures are cooler and days are shorter. Summer fasts means forgoing food and water on days that are usually much longer and much hotter.

On the sixth day of Ramadan today, Muslims in Pittsburgh -- although some may be exempt due to their age or their health -- must fast from 4:42 a.m. to 8:42 a.m., a 16-hour period.

"It is worth the challenge, and the sacrifice, because Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said that if a person fasts and disciplines himself during the month of Ramadan, all his or all her sins will be wiped out," said Abdusemih Tadese, the imam at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh in Oakland, who estimated there are about 12,000 Muslims in Greater Pittsburgh.

Ramadan is not just about the fast. Each night, after the fast has ended for the day, comes the feast. …

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