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Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Belmont, California – The women broke their fast at sunset. Their legs curled beneath them, they gathered around a blue tarp to eat Tuesday night.
They chewed dates, while some poured each other orange juice or water before their prayers. They hadn’t had any food or water for 14 hours.
“Fasting keeps your heart and soul strong,” said Mumtaz Shabber of Burlingame at the Yaseen Foundation’s mosque in Belmont.
But what happens if you are forbidden to fast for Ramadan?
According to the Koran, pregnant women, or those who are breast-feeding or menstruating, have been given a reprieve by God to abstain from the holy obligation meant to teach sacrifice, humility, patience, and a means to feel closer to God.
“It feels like you’re missing out on this important opportunity that God has given for you to clear your sins and start over,” said Farzana Siddiqi of Foster City.
For almost three weeks, many Muslims around the world have been observing Ramadan, which ends Oct. 1.
It is the Islamic month when the Koran was revealed to Angel Gabriel, and was delivered to Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. They pray for guidance and forgiveness, while working to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
Arshia Syeda, 30, of San Mateo, said God rewards each good deed 70 times more during Ramadan than other months.
At least 20 women met at the mosque Tuesday night to perform an Iftar, or break their fast.
Enclosed in a room, separate from the men, their plates were in front of them heavy with food.
Lilting Arabic filled the room along with the occasional slamming of doors as their children ran in and out.
“We can still pray. We can ask for Allah’s forgiveness” said Syeda, referring to when they are not allowed to fast because of menstruation. “When you have your period, you have pain and bloat.
“It’s an uncomfortable feeling,” she added. “It’s the time you need to rest and to relax. Allah is being easy on women.”
Farzana Hai of San Bruno said fasting is done by people who are healthy, and is not an obligation when a woman is pregnant and breast feeding.
“It’s a mercy from God because you are weak,” said the mother of three children. “You are providing nutrition for your child. When you bleed, you are exhausted. (But) we are doing good deeds still.”
They can donate more money, feed the poor, and make up the days they did not fast after Ramadan.
Siddiqi has always fasted after the holy month has ended to make up the time she lost.
But she recalled it was harder to abstain from food.
“There’s this feeling that millions of Muslims are doing it around the world,” Siddiqi said. “But that one week off breaks the momentum.”
Abeer Huniti of Burlingame, however, said God will be forgiving if the woman cannot make up the fast.
“Our religion is not complicated,” she said. “You have many options. You do it from the heart.”
Staff writer Christine Morente covers faith, families, Burlingame and North County.
Copyright (c) 2008, San Mateo County Times, Calif.

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