Hamilton Muslims have started a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, prayers and good deeds for the holy month of Ramadan.
Until Aug. 19, during daylight hours local Muslims will fast from food, drink, smoking and sex to focus on good deeds, spirituality and charity.
“It's so we know what the hunger pangs feel like,” said Dr. Raza Khan, director of the communications with the Muslim Association of Hamilton.
“It keeps us human.”
Two of Hamilton's mosques fall under the Muslim Association of Hamilton, which represents about 3,000 regularly attending Muslims.
The latest Statistics Canada data for religion, which is from 2001, shows 11,335 Muslims in Hamilton, of which 5,905 were male and 5,430 were female. There were 352,525 in Ontario in 2001. New religious-based data will be released next May.
But the number has grown in the last 10 years, said Khan, a family doctor who lives in Ancaster.
This is the first Ramadan in the new Hamilton Mountain Mosque at Stone Church Road East. The 24,000-square foot building was built after the community outgrew its previous mosque. It was officially opened in April and they are already expanding their parking lot, Khan said.
“If you come for Friday prayers, you will see the crowds of people,” he said. “It's sometimes difficult to find a place to pray. The place is just overflowing.”
Immigration may be part of the reason for the increase, Khan said. But “Muslims around the world seem to be moving closer to their faith.”
According to Statistics Canada, Islam is the fifth most prevalent religion in Hamilton, behind Catholicism, Protestant, Christian of unspecified denomination and Christian Orthodox.
Ramadan, which is usually calculated based on the sighting of the new moon to mark the beginning of the Muslim lunar calendar, has varying start times worldwide. In most Middle Eastern countries, it started Friday.
In Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Quatar, Libya and Yemen, Ramadan started the following day.
Some countries use astronominal calculations and observatories, while others rely on the naked eye. Ramadan begins around 11 days earlier each year.With files from The Associated Press