It's the fasting from food and drink that everybody knows about. But when Ramadan arrives, the other kinds of fasting it involves can be pretty tough, too.
Fasting from unkind words. Unkind thoughts. Backbiting. Gossip.
Skipping lunch? Easy. Skipping those? Well ...
Ramadan, which began Friday and ends Aug. 18, is celebrated as the month in which Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. As part of its observance, Muslims fast from food, water, drink and sexual relations every day between sunrise and sunset.
But observing Ramadan is about more than not eating or drinking during the day. It's an effort to "learn how to discipline yourself," Nighat Abdulla says.
"For me, it's more about self-control," says Nighat, who will celebrate Ramadan with her husband, Farooq, a physician, and their three adult daughters. "It's about a time of reflection (of) where I've been in life, a reflection of what I have to do to eliminate bad habits."
Ramadan, she says, is about "looking inside yourself."
"This month, I feel, reinforces your values that, maybe, throughout the year, you forget to think to yourself, 'This is what I should be doing,' " she says.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, 4730 E. Desert Inn Road, says that during Ramadan, Muslims say special prayers, read the Quran and perform acts of charity as well as fast.
But, he says, "it's not only food that people are fasting from. It's also the anger they have and the kind of backbiting or the gossiping and the idle talk that they have to avoid. It's a complete package in the sense that behavior in every aspect of their lives needs to be put into perspective according to divine guidance."
Ramadan offers "an opportunity to develop this self-control over our basic desires," Abdullah says. "Basically, what we are saying is that if we can control our desires for our food and our desires for other things, we can develop control over ourselves in other aspects of our life."
Fasting serves as a means of praising and submitting to God, Abdullah says, and also helps to identify with those "who live in these kind of conditions day in and day out, to have an empathy with them."
During Ramadan, "our focus is turned to God Almighty," Abdullah adds, in, perhaps, a "more intense manner" than the rest of the year.
Young children are not required to fast for Ramadan. Also exempt are the elderly and the sick, who then are "asked to help feed the poor and needy instead" and to fast, if they can, at some other time, Abdullah says.
During Ramadan, families typically will rise before sunrise for prayer and their morning meal. At the end of the day, they will gather again to break their daylong fast with a post-sunset meal.
Often, that day's-end meal will be shared with others. In this way, Ramadan also serves as an opportunity to strengthen relationships.
"When people are praying together or eating together - when people are reflecting together - it gives them a bond and brings them closer and also gives them a feeling of community," Abdullah says.
Rifaat Khan looked forward to Ramadan as a child and wanted to fast even when she was too young.
"I've been doing this since I was 12, and even before I was 12 I always wanted to fast," she says. "My mother would not allow me to, but they would (say), 'OK, don't do it every day.'
"To me, it was always fun. It was always nice to look forward to it."
Rifaat and her husband, Ikram, a physician, typically rise before sunrise for breakfasts that, she says, tend to be a bit more substantial during Ramadan than at other times of the year. Similarly, she says their post-sunset dinners tend to be a bit more "special" during Ramadan.
Friends sometimes are surprised that Rifaat observes the Ramadan fast so conscientiously.
"Some of them are actually very surprised and proud: 'You're going to be doing the whole 30 days? You're not going to be eating?' " she says. "They're probably thinking it's hard. But once you make up your mind to do it, it doesn't look that hard. It's not that hard.
"It's just (that) somebody who hasn't done any fasting, they get scared of it," Rifaat adds, but - she laughs when she notices her own unintentional play on words - "once you do it, it's like a piece of cake."
Contact reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280.