Muslims in St. John's mark Ramadan with special Friday prayers

While many are headed off to campgrounds and trails for the May two-four weekend, others in the community are celebrating a very different holiday: Ramadan.

Holy month of fasting increasingly better understood, say young Muslims, but some misconceptions remain

Muslims attend special Ramadan prayers Friday afternoon at the Madjid-An-Noor mosque in St. John's. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

With Wednesday marking the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan this year, Muslims gathered at the Masjid-an-Noor mosque in St. John's for special Ramadan prayers Friday afternoon.

Syed Pirzada, president of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said most of the time he feels people are aware that Ramadan is a special month for Muslims; they know it's a time when the community fasts and prays.

However, a few youths at the prayer session noted that there are still quite a few misconceptions floating about.

Yusuf Ahmad says Ramadan can be tough on the stomach but gives him time to self-reflect and become a better person. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Yusuf Ahmad said despite what others may think, he enjoys Ramadan and sees it as something to look forward to. In fact, he started the practice when he was just seven.

"It's supposed to be the age of 11 or something, but I insisted," he said. "I like it — it's fun."

Ahmad admitted the days can be long and hard, especially on his stomach. Ramadan observers go without food and water between sunrise and sunset for 30 days. In Newfoundland, a day during these spring months can last almost 16 hours.

Time for self-reflection

But Ahmad appreciates how he's able to self-reflect and become a better person because of this period each year.

For instance, the time for prayer and contemplation gives him a compelling reason to not watch television.

"But then you know, my parents say that shouldn't be a reason, you should not do it anyway," Ahmad joked.

Moiz Ali says charity is an important part of Ramadan. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Another misconception that young Moiz Ali has encountered with friends is the assumption that Ramadan is only about oneself and fasting.

"It's also for other people," he said, for those who are living in poverty. Charity and giving to the less fortunate is a significant component of Ramadan.

Fasting is merely a facet of the practice that allows Muslims to experience and understand the hardships that those in need face daily.

Abdallah Shahwan says fasting during Ramadan reminds him how fortunate he is. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

"I feel like I'm kind of in their shoes," said Abdallah Shahwan. But at the end of the day, Shahwan said he knows when he'll next eat, unlike the poor.

"So I feel sad for them, but I feel fortunate that I have food on the table every night."