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Metro area Muslims prepare for Ramadan

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

In just a few days, Halim Naeem will begin a journey of spiritual and physical renewal.

He won’t eat or drink between sunrise and sunset each day. He will pray and abstain from any activities or behaviors that detract from his goal.

He won’t be alone in this journey.

Millions of Muslims around the world are preparing to observe Ramadan. It’s recognized in the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar and calls for Muslims to fast during daylight hours.

Metro Detroit Muslims say Ramadan purifies their souls and allows time to practice self-discipline. It begins Monday (or Sunday if the moon is sighted earlier) and lasts about 30 days.

“The main thing we are trying to get out of Ramadan is being a better human being,” said Naeem, 34, a psychologist and father of three.

Mosques across the region will host prayer services and seminars, and serve fast-breaking dinners throughout the month.

To break the fast, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Metro Detroit will host a Ramadan dinner from 8-10 p.m. Friday at its Rochester Hills Mosque.

Some 200 community members and political leaders are expected to attend the dinner, now in its fourth year.

Mahir Osman, secretary of public affairs for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said the dinner was started to celebrate Ramadan with the community and encourage people to overcome stereotypes about Muslims.

“When people are able to sit down with Muslims as neighbors and friends, it shows that we are no different than any other American,” Osman said. “We have the same desires, same ambitions and issues that other individuals have.”

Many break their fast as the Prophet Muhammad did around 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset followed by prayer. It is common for Muslims to break their fast with family and friends and at free meals for the public at mosques and other public spaces.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity and performing the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.

Dawud Walid, executive director of Muslim civil rights group CAIR-MI, said fasting all day can be a challenge for some Muslims.

“The most challenging part is keeping my energy level up,” Walid said. “Going without anything to eat or drink ... especially in a hot month, that can make it very draining on energy.”

Some Muslims risk gaining weight during the fast because they eat such large feasts when meals are allowed, Walid said. The purpose of Ramadan is to practice self-restraint, and gluttony is still considered a sin, he said.

Naeem, the father from Detroit, said he loses about 15-20 pounds during Ramadan each year. He is easing his 10-year-old son, his oldest child, into Ramadan by allowing him to drink only water during daylight hours.

Children usually begin practicing Ramadan when they hit puberty.

Naeem suggests eating dates, rich in potassium and vitamins, in the morning to suppress hunger throughout the day.

“It’s like a detox on a lot of levels,” Naeem said. “Just to put you in the mindset of self-discipline.”

(313) 222-6793

@Nicquel Terry

The Associated Press contributed