Muslims Look Forward To Ramadan, Even In A Difficult Year
The Khalilov family of North York hadn't eaten in 17 hours, and their table
was covered in plates of food: stuffed bell peppers, fried dough drenched in
honey, nectarines and plums.
It was the second day of Ramadan, a month of daylight fasting for the world's
Muslims. At 9:03 p.m., someone's iPhone played a Turkish call to prayer. The
Khalilovs sat down in their North York backyard with a group of friends for
iftar, the sunset meal they had been waiting for since sunrise.
Because the period of observance varies according to the Islamic lunar
calendar, this Ramadan will be the most arduous in more than three decades,
falling when the summer days are longest. This year, adult Muslims in Toronto
are to refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking between about 3:45 a.m. and
At the Khalilovs on Friday, plates were passed around and piled high with meat
pastries, cheese pie and other traditional Turkic dishes. But there was
something restrained and even solemn in the way people ate, though it was
their first taste of food since dawn. They were thinking about God, some later
said. And they were thinking about the truly hungry, the involuntarily hungry.
''There are so many people in the world who break their fast only with
water,'' explained Khalil Khalilov, 25.
Ramadan is the mostly spiritually charged time of year for many Muslims:
believers are meant to perform good deeds, read the Koran and think pious
thoughts. This immersion in religious concerns can make the month's physical
trials less seem less important, and less daunting.
''There's a saying that we fast with our mind, with our eyes and our ears,''
said Khalilov, an entrepreneur and real estate agent. ''When a person is
fasting, it makes him more considerate about the God ... As long as you have
this greater purpose in mind, the day goes by very quickly.''
Of course, difficulties still abound during Ramadan, especially when it falls
in the thick of summer.
''If I'm at home with kids, it's kind of challenging,'' said Ayse Yegul, a
guest and an outreach representative for the Intercultural Dialogue Institute,
a GTA group that spreads awareness of Islam in Canada. ''Sometimes it's hard
to follow up their energy. Sometimes I'd rather have a long afternoon sleep
But many at the dinner, including Yegul, said the hardships of an 17-hour fast
are insignificant compared to its spiritual rewards.
''There could be some challenges, but those are very minor things,'' said
His family, Crimean Tatars, immigrated to Canada from Ukraine in 2007. Now
their Ramadan celebrations incorporate Toronto's multiculturalism. On Friday,
most of their guests were Turkish, and they have eaten iftar dinners with
non-Muslim Ukrainians since arriving here.
''You don't have any obstacles to communicate with each other. It's a great
thing we have in Canada,'' said Alie Khalilov, Khalil's mother.
''Here, we realize that we're all human beings,'' said Khalil.
Over tea, he expounded his plans for the rest of the month: to consistently
attend nighttime prayers, to read the Koran from cover to cover, to give to
Khalilov expects he'll miss the spiritual intensity of Ramadan when it's over,
even this year with its punishing fasts.
''People are missing it — because we realize how beautiful this month is.''