CAIRO - As the fasting month knocks the doors every year, Dr. Reshma Khan prepares herself to maintain a spiritual and physical discipline for a month, hoping to maintain it throughout the year.
It's like an intensive crash course, Khan, an OB-GYN and Mount Pleasant mother of three, told The Post and Courier.
Dr Khan admits that going without her beloved caffeinated tea for long hours every day throughout the month has its challenges.
Yet, it has nothing to compare with the effect of Ramadan spirituality.
For her, Ramadan fasting is compared to a doctor taking an educational course and applying the content long after the class is over.
Getting used to fasting, Ramadan's emphasis on prayer and Qur'an study opens a deeper spiritual connection to God that overrides hunger and thirst, she added.
Ramadan also offers her an opportunity for self-reflection and added discipline over acts such as avoiding backbiting and thinking more deeply about how to treat others.
During the holy month, Khan and her family typically partake each night in a post-sunset meal, prayer and Qur'an study.
Her oldest child, 11-year-old Ameen, takes part in Ramadan fasting for the second year.
Her younger children, aged 9 and 6, fast for shorter periods as they choose and are able.
In the evening, the family gathers for a special iftar meal after more than 14 hours of fasting.
We try to keep it very simple and focus on prayers and our understanding of the Qur'an, Khan says.
I am thankful God has given me the strength to do it.
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in North America on Tuesday, July 9.
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.
A key part of Ramadan spirituality is related to Islam's emphasis on charity.
You are doing this for God, Dr Khan said.
It's all about how much better your faith is at that point. It is God consciousness. Because God told me to do this, it is good for me.
Helping the other is a key part of Dr Khan's life.
Working as a local Veterans Affairs doctor, she managed to establish a free clinic in Mount Pleasant called the Shifa Free Clinic in January 2012.
The free clinic offers a full range of gynecology services to the uninsured and underinsured Americans, regardless of the faith.
Khan, 42, runs the clinic with about 20 volunteers and companies that donate medical services.
Her husband, Dr. Ahsan Khan, a nuclear medicine specialist, serves on the clinic's board.
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
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.
The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.