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For many young Pakistanis, Ramadan is about redemption

By Faisal Aziz
/ Source: Reuters

By Faisal Aziz

KARACHI (Reuters Life!) - For many young Pakistanis, the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan heralds a lifestyle change, albeit a temporary one.

Less partying and more prayers are the norm in Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, and even for many of the country's liberal, western-oriented youth, it is a chance to seek redemption.

"There is something different about Ramadan, and you feel like praying more and getting closer to Allah during the month," said Noman Sayeed, a telecom company executive.

"I cut down on other activities, including watching television and films, to offer prayers regularly as well as recite the Holy Koran and ask for forgiveness for whatever sins I commit all around the year," he said.

Ramadan requires Muslims to fast from dawn to dusk, and Islamic scholars -- citing the Koran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad -- say any good deed during the month gets rewarded much more than the rest of the year.

Cinemas are almost empty in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, and there is limited social activities other than iftars, the communal meals to break the fast.

Amina Ansari, a 26-year old energy sector executive, said she had been brought up in a household where nearly everyone fasted and prayed more at Ramadan.

"It means a lot in the sense that I feel it is the time of the year when usually my bond with Allah becomes stronger and chances of Him listening to me become higher," she said.

"Radio and television keep reinforcing this idea as well by broadcasting more religious shows, while the advertisements also show everyone fasting, praying, so it naturally becomes relevant to me."

Ansari said with more people praying together and neighbors sharing food at iftar, Ramadan also brings out a sense of harmony and unity.

Yet for some, Ramadan remains a social issue rather than a personal motivation of faith.

"Ramadan to me becomes more relevant due to the society around me and the reactions to it by the general population rather than a personal reaction or a deeper commitment to faith on an individual level," said 30 year-old lawyer Mustafa Mumtaz.

"Not being a steadfast Muslim, I personally do not fast, but do avoid eating in public or smoking in front of people fasting, out of respect for their dedication to their beliefs."

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)