Fasting has been weighing on Sana Motorwala’s mind.
The 11-year-old Kendall girl wants to participate in Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims refrain from drinking and eating from sunrise to sunset. The practice is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Sana will try for the first time to complete the month’s fast this year, when Ramadan begins at sunset on Monday. Concerned about dehydration, she is temporarily dropping tennis camp and swimming classes because liquids — water included — are not permitted during the fasting period.
“I kind of feel excited about doing it,” she says. “I will miss [tennis and swimming] but it’s not like you’re forever robbed of them. And it’s only for one month, so you put up with it.”
Sana is one of countless children who are balancing the demands of fasting during Ramadan with active, everyday lives. Muslims are required to participate in the fast once they reach puberty, but it’s increasingly common for children to start earlier.
Maryaam Fatima, 9, says she first fasted last year.
“I’d seen other people and I thought, ‘I should be doing this too,’ ”says Maryaam, who lives in Miami Gardens.
She says the fasting process wasn’t as difficult as she’d expected.
“When you fast it’s like in your heart,” she says. “You’re going more toward Allah.”
During Ramadan, Maryaam’s day typically revolved around prayer and reading the Quran.
“I don’t play because it’s not a month for play,” she says.
Muslims eat twice daily during Ramadan, the morning meal of suhoor (before sunrise) and the evening meal of iftar (after sunset).
To have an easier time with fasting, says Andrea Allouche, a registered dietician at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Diabetes Research Institute, it’s better to start the day with complex carbohydrates like whole grains rather than sugary cereals.
Caffeine, along with fried and fatty food, should be avoided because they can foster dehydration, Allouche says.
“Try to stay out of the sun,” she says. “Generally when you are fasting, you don’t want to be outside doing all your regular activities.”
Allouche recommends parents with younger children who are fasting watch for signs of dehydration, which include dry mouth, sleepiness, lightheadedness and a lack of sweat.
“It could get dangerous for kids very quickly,” she says.
People of any age with diabetes should consult their healthcare provider before deciding to fast, she says.
Abdul Kareem, 13, of Miami Gardens fasted for the first time about three years ago. His family converted to Islam five years ago from the Baptist faith.
Abdul changes his usual routine during Ramadan by reading the Quran more often and cutting back on playing basketball with his friends. Fasting has grown easier over time, he says.
“You get used to the fact that you have to do it but you don’t get used to the being thirsty and hungry parts,” he says.
He thinks of it as an internal competition.
“You know you can’t drink water and at the end of the day you want to drink water, but you think it doesn’t make any sense to break fast,” Abdul says. “When you see food, it’s like you can eat the food, but you don’t want to because you’ll fail Allah.”