DETROIT -- For Zainab Chami of Dearborn, the holy month of Ramadan isn't just about fasting all day from food and water - it's a time of introspection.
"Ramadan elevates you spiritually," said Chami, 29, a high school teacher, about the month marked by observant Muslims. "There's a spiritual reawakening. The feeling is indescribable."
Like many other Muslims around the world, Chami will start observing Ramadan, which starts Monday night at sunset. During the month, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking any liquids from sunrise to sunset, which can be a challenge during the long days of summer.
But it's worth it because the fasting is a way to keep Muslims focused on their faith, Chami said. Despite feeling hungry or thirsty, "I become more patient" during Ramadan, she said. "I'm calmer, more tranquil, more serene. I feel closer to my creator. I never feel closer than I do during Ramadan."
Dr. Mansoor Qureshi of Superior Township said that he and other Muslims try to improve themselves every Ramadan.
"Every year, we want to be a better human being by the end of the month," said Qureshi, with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Center in Rochester Hills. "It's kind of like a mountain climber, moving up. We have to get a notch above."
For Qureshi and others, that can mean avoiding backtalk, being nice to people and controlling desires. Some do that by reading more from the Quran, the Islamic holy book that Muslims believe was first revealed to their prophet, Mohammed, during Ramadan. Observing Ramadan is one of the main pillars of Islam.
Imam Mohammad Elahi, the religious leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, said Ramadan is a time for Muslims to "return to God, who is the source of everything, whether it's health, happiness, peace or wisdom."
"We repair our relationship with the divine through fasting and prayer."
At Elahi's mosque, a nightly program in English and Arabic starts Tuesday. Dozens of other mosques and centers will feature similar programs, with lectures from visiting speakers and prayers. Fordson High School's auditorium will feature nightly lectures whose theme this year is "Revolution of the Self."
Ramadan is "the month of self-improvement, where you build your character, your immunity to desires," said Bilal Dabaja, 28, of Dearborn, who helps organize nightly lectures during Ramadan. "You're working on building your spirituality."
Imam Elahi said that Ramadan is like a "free market for spiritualshopping."
"It's a month of God's reception ... we let the Quran be revealed in our hearts."
Niraj Warikoo , Detroit Free Press