It's 3:30 in the afternoon and Abdelk Ader still hasn't taken a sip of water or anything to eat since sunrise. He has been working in a small kebab stand in the Vienna’s 19th district, surrounded by tasty food since 11:00 in the morning.
“I work a lot, but I am a student here so it’s fine because I only have to work in here for three or four hours a day,” Ader explained. But he said that being surrounded by traditional Turkish food while beginning his first day of fasting was hard.
Ader is just one of the many Muslims who live in Austria and who participate in the Islamic month of fasting known as Ramadan.
Ramadan starts on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the first sighting of the crescent moon. This year Ramadan began on Saturday, June 28th and will last until Sunday, July 27th.
During this time all Muslims, aside from the sick, elderly and children, may not eat, drink, smoke or engage in any form of sexual activity from dawn until dusk.
Abdelk Ader has been participating in Ramadan since he was 14 years old. He's now 27. “Oh no. It never gets easier,” Ader answered when asked if the religious practice has become easier as he gets older.
He explained that the meal eaten before sunrise is referred to as suhur and at this time the Muslims can have their usual breakfast. Around 21:00 is when the sun begins to set in Vienna and after that, Muslims have their second meal of the day known as iftar.
“In my country I have a big meal after sunset but here it’s not the same. Here I eat with a friend in a big group at mosque.”
Life for Muslims in Austria is slightly easier than the challenges faced by the faithful in Sweden, where due to its far northern location, the sun doesn’t set until well after midnight.
There are roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, with close to half a million living in Austria.
Voralberg has the largest population of Muslims in Austria, followed by the country’s capital, Vienna.
The Vienna Islamic Centre is the biggest mosque in Austria and is located in Vienna’s 21st district of Floridsdorf. The centre serves as a cultural and religious haven for Muslims in Vienna, and is where Ader and his friends come to share their iftar after sunset.
Ader, and the rest of the Muslim community throughout the world, still have 25 more days of strenuous fasting to endure.
Until then, Muslims continue in their practice of self-restraint in order to purify their souls and worship Allah.