Many children and young adults at the East Texas Islamic Society are just as passionate about the holy month as their older counterparts.
“It's a way to try and get closer to the religion,” recent Robert E. Lee graduate, Suna Burghul, 18, said. “Some people think you starve yourself all day, but it's a time to reflect. It's a test.”
Ramadan began Friday and lasts about 30 days, depending on the moon sighting. The month, which moves 11 days earlier every year since it's on a lunar calendar, is most well known for fasting from sunup to sundown, but also includes an emphasis on being kind and more reflection than other times of the year.
Ms. Burghul chooses not to wear a hijab (the traditional headcovering for women), and remembered some confusion among her classmates when she stopped eating for Ramadan.
“People would ask me 'are you anorexic?' she said. “Some of my friends even fasted with me. They didn't want to eat in front of me.”
But many young Muslims are used to the practice and look forward to Ramadan.
“People have this misconception that it's like a punishment, or that we want to cheat,” Eden Absar, 15, said. “We never even think about that.”
Omar El-Kishky, 10, attends Rice Elementary School. Despite his youth, he sees a bigger purpose in the practices.
“People who are not eating can understand how poor people feel,” he said. “It's hard to fast the first day, then you get used to it,” he said.
“We wake before sunset to eat, and usually go back to sleep,” said Ms. Burghul with a laugh. “It's harder when Ramadan falls during school. I would just come home and go to sleep, then study after the sun went down.”
Muslims who are particularly devoted memorize the Quran, such as Jawad Memon and Ais Mohannad, both 21. They are taking turns reciting all of the scriptures for the congregation throughout the month.
“The first day, you're nervous that you'll start forgetting,” Memon said. “After that it's very peaceful.”
Though they don't speak Arabic, they learned the phrases in the Quran since that is the original language and preferred. Both said that having the Quran memorized keeps them mindful of doing right.
People who memorize the book are called Hafiz, and are respected within the community.
“Your friends and family know you're a Hafiz and they ask you for advice,” Mohannad said. “It's the book of Allah, so of course you will be affected by it. As life goes on, you see it more and more.”