SYDNEY (AP) — Minhaj Uddin Syed washes his feet in a restroom sink as he performs "wudu," which is the Islamic ritual cleansing of the body before prayer.
Syed, a Pakistani Muslim living in Australia, is a computer software technician who works around the city and is constantly on the move. Finding a place to pray five times a day can be a challenge as he remains devoted to his faith.
Like many Muslims worldwide, Syed is currently observing Ramadan — a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. He answers some questions about his faith and Islam's holiest month:
Q: HOW IMPORTANT IS PRAYER TO YOU?
A: Prayer for me is very important because it shows the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims. We start praying every day from the age of 7, and it is our parents that must teach these early lessons on how to be a good Muslim.
Q: DO YOU ALWAYS PRAY HERE?
A: During Ramadan more Muslims pray, so in Sydney they organize more musallas (prayer rooms) to use. I work all around the city as a software technician so I use many different locations. There is no mosque in or near the city.
Q: IF YOU COULD CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT YOURSELF FOR RAMADAN, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
A: Ramadan teaches us how to control what we want and can do without. It shows us in a small way how others suffer. We can afford to fast and it is good for us not just because our religion says so, but it is good to train your body to do this as well. I have nothing I need to change.
Q: DO YOUR NON-MUSLIM FRIENDS UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MUSLIM DURING RAMADAN?
A: They do not all understand Islam, but they respect what I do and try to help. My work colleagues try to help by not eating in front of me and my supervisors are flexible and allow me to start and finish at better times to suit my prayer times.
Q: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO YOU ABOUT BEING A MUSLIM IN AUSTRALIA?
A: It is to be the best Muslim I can be. I follow my teachings. I pray not just during Ramadan but all year. Muslims must think of others, they must help those who have nothing and must be kind. But most of all, a Muslim must show control. You must not cheat on being a Muslim. If you break fast because you had no control, you must prove that you are sorry and fast for (another) 30 days after Ramadan. You must learn control.
Each day this week the Associated Press will focus on a Muslim devotee living in the minority in the Asia-Pacific region, illustrating what the fasting month of Ramadan means to the Muslim community in that country.
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