Daily fasting and very early mornings: Sask. Muslims celebrate Ramadan

When Sarah Bardouh was in Grade 6, it was difficult to explain to her classmates why she fasted for an entire month.

Sarah Bardouh and Iqra Khan says Ramadan fasting teaches discipline, kindness

Fasting is only a small facet of Ramadan, Khan says. Focusing on religion and being able to understand the Qur'an is where most of the effort lies. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC News)

When Sarah Bardouh was in sixth grade, it was difficult to explain to her classmates why she fasted for an entire month.

Now a 19-year-old student, she says it's a lot easier to explain the holy month of Ramadan to people, both because she now understands the religious significance of the holiday and because she wants non-Muslims to be able to learn about her faith.

"When I was younger, I feel like people were less informed about what Ramadan was," she told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning. "It was my duty to tell them what it was, but I was too shy to do it."

Ramadan is a month of fasting that takes place in the ninth month of the lunar calendar. It coincides with when Muslims believe the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

While the fasting can be challenging and teaches self-control, fellow student Iqra Khan said it's only a small part of the month.

"Fasting is just one per cent of it," she said. "The other 99 per cent is focusing on your religion and being able to understand the Qur'an."

Still, the schedule during Ramadan is difficult. Observant Muslims in Saskatchewan have to eat their breakfast very early, at around 2:30 a.m. That meal can be crucial in getting through the rest of the day.

"It depends on how nutritious your breakfast is," said Bardouh. "If my meal is nutritious, I will be much livelier. I can do a lot more."

While many people might have a hard time concentrating on their studies, Khan said her grades actually improve during Ramadan.

"During this month especially, we try to use our time as wisely as possible," she said. "Watching a lot of movies, watching a lot of TV, we try to trim back on it. We have so much time to study."

She said her favourite part of the day is when she breaks her fast after the sun goes down.

"For my family, we have four other families that come in to eat with us," said Bardough. "Everyone makes something different, so it's a big feast."

Bardouh said she's learned a lot from practicing Ramadan over the years.

"I learned to be patient," she said. "I also learned to self-reflect, because you have so much time when you're not eating. You have plenty of time."

Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, falls on June 24.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning