By Erin Delmore
This year, Ramadan falls during summer, so many of New Jersey’s 160,000 Muslims fast from daybreak to sundown. That means no food, no water for 17 hours — much longer than the 12-hour fast in winter.
“Not the greatest weather in New Jersey, so it’s kind of hard to go all day without water. I mean can hold on with food, but I need water,” said Sinar Seen.
The Islamic calendar follows the lunar calendar, where each new month starts with the new moon. Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar new year, and so it’s not tied to any season, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Ramadan will start next year in the first week of June, and in the last week of May the year after that.
“It drops every year 10 days, so this year we fasted June 18. Next year we’ll fast June 8, and it is out of the mercy and the greatness of god that it’s fairness to the people of the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere that we’re not constantly fasting in the month of summer and people down in the southern hemisphere fasting in the winter, but that we’re constantly shifting,” said Mohamed El Filali, former outreach director at the Islamic Center of Passaic County.
El Filali eats his first meal of the day more than an hour before sunrise, before 3:45 in the morning.
“And that’s usually, maybe a muffin, a drink of milk, yogurts, a lot of water, brush your teeth and call it day,” he said.
From there, nothing until around 8:30 at night. And that presents its own challenge to restaurant owners in South Paterson, which has a large Muslim population.
“It does affect the business, that’s for sure. During daytime, as you see, we’re open, but there’s no customers. It forced me to open late, however I’m open late, but I’m getting customers,” said Bistro One co-owner Sinar Seen.
Dr. Ahmad Nizar Kahf sees patients in neighboring Haledon, and while he encourages fasting, he warns it isn’t for everyone.
“If you’re unable to fast, Islam does not require you to fast. As a matter of fact, in certain circumstances, if you fear that you may hurt medically, like a pregnant woman, or somebody who takes certain medications, he should not fast,” he said.
Dr. Nizar Kahf recommends people who are fasting eat low-salt meals and drink plenty of water.