Troops observing Ramadan facing extra challenges
Some U.S. military members in the Pacific are already several days into a month of fasting during daylight hours.
Muslims began celebrating Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month of the Islam lunar calendar, on Thursday with the sighting of a new crescent moon. The month ends on or about Oct. 12.
The period marks when the Quran, the Muslim holy book, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
During the holy month, Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink — including water — and sex starting from 1.5 hours before sunrise until sunset. Smoking is also prohibited during these hours.
“It’s about humbling yourself,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Hafiz Camp, a building administrator for Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron One, First Marine Aircraft Wing, on Okinawa’s Camp Foster and a practicing Muslim. “It’s so that you get the same feeling as people who are not as fortunate as you are. And believe me, you really feel it, too.”
The daylight fasting also is intended to build character and instill discipline and self-restraint, Camp said.
Muslims break their daily fast with what they call iftar, Camp said, eating dates with milk or water — as Muhammed did — followed by a meal, often with fellow Muslims.
Observing Ramadan and performing military duties at times can be challenging, and usually requires prior coordination with supervisors, Camp and other U.S. Muslim military personnel in the Pacific said.
On especially hot days, for instance, Muslims may seek permission to reduce physical training or limit their time outdoors, duty permitting, servicemembers said.
“You have to be forthright with them (supervisors) and not tell them on the last day before Ramadan starts,” said Tech. Sgt. Keith Cherry, the noncommissioned officer in charge of storage and issue for the 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Camp said at the end of Ramadan, “you feel healthier; it’s like a cleansing of your body. During Ramadan, I lose about 10 pounds.”
Muslims also perform extra prayers during Ramadan and are required to read the entire Quran, reciting one part each night.
Prior to the 30th day of Ramadan, Camp said, Muslims are required to donate about 2.5 percent of their annual savings to charities for the poor.
Ramadan ends after 30 days with a feast, exchanging of gifts, and singing and dancing, Camp said.