Ramadan is a 30-day period in which Muslims worldwide do not eat, drink or have sex from sunrise to sunset, and participate in extra prayers and charitable giving.
Dr. Lamiaa Ali, Tulsa pediatrician and spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Tulsa, said fasting is "kind of like a maintenance month for renewing our spirit and our body."
It is a month of self-examination and repentance for things like lying and cheating.
During the month, she said, Muslims in Tulsa will attend nightly Taraweeh prayers at the Al Salam Mosque, 4630 S. Irvington Ave.
A Chicago imam, Ahmed Khorshid, will recite from memory the entire Quran, the holy book of Islam. The recitation takes about an hour a night.
Ali's husband, Dr. Khalid Aly, an internist with Hillcrest Medical Center's clinic in Pryor, said Muslims fast in obedience to God, not for the health reasons, but fasting does have health benefits.
He said fasting reduces lipids and lowers cholesterol, which helps the heart and reduces the risk of stroke.
In a time when Americans are overweight and diabetes is epidemic, fasting can help control diabetes and help kidney function, he said.
He said people feel less lethargic when they are fasting, and are better able to have empathy for people around the world who do not have enough to eat.
Fasting, he said, is a discipline between the Muslim and God. No one else knows whether, in the privacy of their home, they violate the requirements of the Ramadan fast.
Observing the Ramadan fast is one of the five pillars, or requirements, of Islam.
Since the fast follows the lunar month, it is 10 days later each year.
Aly said fasting is more difficult in the summer when the days are long and hot, but the reward of obedience is greater.
The young, the elderly, pregnant women and the infirm are not required to fast.
To violate the fast is a serious matter, he said.
His wife added, however, that if a Muslim fails to observe the fast, Islamic law has provision for making it up later.
Joyce Colbert was born and raised in Tulsa, and has spent most of her life here.
She observed her first Ramadan fast last summer, just months after becoming a Muslim.
"It was hard at first," she said, "but it was fine. I completed the entire fast."
She said she is excited about entering her second Ramadan fast.
Colbert said she was raised Baptist, and several years ago during a chaotic time of her life she cried out to God in prayer.
"He spoke to me and told that when you look like this (covered), you will have peace in your life. At first I thought I was supposed to be a nun. I studied to be a nun for several months.
"Then someone told me, 'Muslims cover.' Muslims? I can't be a Muslim," she told herself at the time.
She began to study Islam after her mother warned her that it is a sign of ignorance to speak out against something she knows nothing about.
She attended Islamic classes at the mosque, and during the second class, made her "shahada," or declaration of faith that God is one and Muhammad is his messenger. The shahada is the first pillar of Islam.
The Ramadan fast ends Aug. 19 with the Eid al-Fitr, the feast of breaking the fast.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity. Look-in on Ramadan
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