Here in Bangladesh, Muslims are fasting for almost 15 hours during the holy month of Ramadan this year. However, there are some countries where people have to fast for 18-19 hours, or even longer.
For people like Helali Mortuza Bhuiyan, who lives in Seattle in the US, the last time for Sehri is around 3:15am while the Iftar is just before 9:00pm, meaning it is almost 18 hours.
“The Esha prayer is at 11:00pm. So they finish around midnight or later. Most people do not sleep after Taraweeh. They take the Sehri and then go to bed. I hear some people take a nap after they come home from work at 5 or 6 in the evening,” said Helali, an engineer.
When asked if they have time in such a fast paced nation to have Iftar together, he said, “There are always some families who get together and have Iftar. We, the Bangladesh community, also host an Iftar at a local mosque, where all local Muslims come. We raise money and volunteer for around 1000 people.”
On the challenges of fasting for long hours, Safat Rashif, who around a year back moved to British Columbia in Canada, said, "We always try to avoid hard physical activities at work or home and that makes things easy."
Zafer Dayem, another engineer who works in London, echoed the same.
“Limiting physical activities to a minimum helps keep you going towards the end of the day. Letting your colleagues at the workplace know about your fasting usually helps, as people from different religions are in general considerate of others' beliefs and plan activities like meetings, accordingly, which is contrary to the general perception of British racism.”
“It is hard to eat much from Iftar to Sehri because of the short timespan, but intaking fluids helps,” he added.
Both Safat and Zafer said Bangladeshis often get together either at someone's house or some restaurants to have Iftar.
“However, due to the short interval between Iftar and Taraweeh, people who attend Khatam Taraweeh and live far from the Iftar venue tend to avoid such get-togethers,” Zafer observed.
For a country like Qatar, the fasting time is quite similar to Bangladesh, but there are things that are essentially different.
“The last time for Sehri is around 3:15am and the Iftar is around 6:15pm. All the food shops remain closed in this span of time. Consumption of foods in public is strictly prohibited and is a punishable offence,” said Shalima Islam, who lives in Doha.
“Many tents are built around the city where the government and the rich distribute food for the less fortunate ones. The price of essentials is cut down and businessmen are bound to sell things at a lower price.”
However, Taraweeh in Qatar is a little different. “Unlike Bangladesh it is 8 Rakaats here. Shopping centres are open till midnight and often even after midnight. So we usually go for shopping after Taraweeh. Most of the mosques have a section for women and many say their prayers in the mosques,” Shalima further said.
Sabrina Mostafa, who lives in Sydney where the fasting time is close to only 12 hours, adds something different.
“The Muslims here are kind of divided. The Lebanese, for an example, follow the calendar while the Bangladeshis follow the moonsighting rule.
“Once a proposal was placed to approve general holidays for the Eid, but they had to turn it down because the authorities could not determine which day they would announce the holidays. Two factions have two different days to mark the beginning of Ramadan and two observe Eid on two different days,” said Sabrina.