OREGON - Growing up to watch their parents abstain from food and water during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, American young Muslim children are eager to catch a glimpse of the sacrifice and satisfaction of Ramadan, imitating their fasting parents before reaching puberty when it is required of them.
My mom used to tell me to devote myself to God. She said, When you love him, you can fast for 15 or 17 hours because you love him.' She was right, Nabeeha Tahseen, 13, from Beaverton, Oregon, told Oregon Live.
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
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US Muslims celebrate the start of the holy fasting month on Friday, July 20, making it the first time for Ramadan in 30 years to come in mid July.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur'an and good deeds.
Although fasting is not required for children in Islam until they reach the age of puberty, many Muslim families prefer to teach their kids to start at an early age.
I first tried fasting when I was about 8. I remember one time when I wanted to eat and drink. I went into the bathroom and I thought, "God is watching me." So I didn't eat, Tahseen said.
But I told my mother, "This is too hard for me." And she said, It's OK, you're just practicing,' he added.
Adeeb Chowdhury, 15-year-old student from Portland, cannot remember the date when he started fasting.
I can't really say when I started fasting. I thought it was cool. Adults did it. Some of my friends, more mature ones, fasted. I wanted to go with the flow, he said.
But when I was younger, my parents didn't want me to fast too long -- they were worried that I wasn't used to it.
But millions of people around the world are fasting, too. Why can't I? It helps me to feel empathy. I don't need to fast, but I can do it for 30 days.
Growing up in a culture where food is everywhere, Ramadan offered American youth a better chance to catch a glimpse of the sacrifice and satisfaction.
This world is full of temptation, of things we're not supposed to do, said Sadia Hasan, a 13-year-old from Portland.
We need strength to not do them, and you need time to build that strength.
It's good that Ramadan lasts a month.
Some children also see Ramadan as a better chance to get closer to Allah by joining night prayers with adults.
Fasting is part of my religion, Najima Hassan, 11, Beaverton, said.
I follow what my parents do. I believe what my parents believe. That's why I believe in Islam more than other religions.
For Hassan, the favorite part is Ramadan last third when they get up at 2 in the morning to go to prayers.
My favorite part of Ramadan is the last 10 days, Hassan said.
We go to bed early and get up at 2 in the morning to go to prayers. I like it when the leader prays and we say, Amin.'
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net