Ramadan is only a few days away and for Muslims all around the world, that means preparing for a month of spiritual discipline to help us get closer to God. However, this is not just a time that affects Muslims, as chances are, if you’re non-Muslim, you’ll most likely come into contact with someone observing the holy month.
Whether it be a co-worker, a friend, maybe even a family member, here’s all the low down you need to know in order to avoid those awkward back-and-forth questioning that leave you feeling a little embarrassed.
1. What is Ramadan actually about?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is known as the month of fasting. This means that Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset every single day for approximately a month. Of course, there are exceptions to this, ie. for children, for the ill or for those that are travelling, but other than that, it is an obligation for all Muslims to fast if they can do so.
This quote is taken from Chapter 2 of the Quran: “The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.”
However, it’s not just exclusively about abstaining from food. During the hours of fasting, Muslims must also abstain from sexual relations, listening to music and distasteful behaviour such as gossiping, arguing, cursing etc. Instead, they shift their focus to spiritual discipline, strengthening their willpower and spending quality time with their loved ones. This month is also a time for people to look within themselves, reflect on their past actions, ask for forgiveness, give to charity and increase their knowledge about Islam.
While to outsiders this may seem like a difficult task, take it from someone who has observed Ramadan for as long as she can remember; it’s really not. Of course, the lack of food and water is challenging physically (especially the lack of coffee, damn), but everything else is definitely manageable. And honestly, it’s extremely rewarding. It strips you of your worldly comforts so you have no choice but to revert back into yourself and understand just how thankful you should be for what you have, while also taking the opportunity to grow and become a better individual. It’s just so wholesome.
2. “Oh my God, not even water?”
The age ol’ question. No, not even water. No food, no water, no gum, no flavouring. Nothing may pass your throat until the sun sets. And yes, you can swallow your own spit, just in case you were wondering.
3. How does fasting work?
Typically, Muslims will wake up an hour or so before sunrise for Suhoor, which is our first meal of the day. If you’re smart, this will consist of high-energy food, maybe oats with syrup with fruit and nuts, or something packed with carbs and nutrients so it can last you the day. If you’re slightly lazier, and I’m very guilty of this, it’ll be the leftover pizza from the day before or just a packet of ramen noodles. Whatever floats your boat. Then, after sunrise prayer, most Muslims go back to sleep and wake up before midday prayers.
The rest of the day will typically consist of your daily routine, work, reading the Quran, spending time with your family, prepping food and then one more prayer before sun set. Then it’s time to break your fast with a larger meal, often referred to as Iftar, followed by a short prayer.
After that, many people head to the mosque for a special prayer that is only done during Ramadan.
And then it happens all over again the next day.
4. Can non-Muslims fast, or is that considered rude?
Of course, they can! I once had a friend that asked me if it’s considered ‘cultural appropriation’ to fast because she wasn’t Muslim, which was very sweet of her to consider. But it’s all good. Actually, it’s highly respectable to see non-Muslims getting involved with Ramadan when they don’t have to, because it is a big sacrifice.
Overall, it helps bring us so much closer as a community too!
5. How can I make it easier for my Muslim friends?
The Muslims around you don’t need much, to be honest. Of course, we don’t expect non-Muslims to fast along with us if they don’t want to, or to stop eating and drinking around us, but it’s nice to show a little consideration when you’re eating your lunch in the office or why not try having more productive conversations about tamer topics throughout the day rather than gossiping about your manager etc.
With other social events, like work gatherings or dinner parties, if you want to invite your Muslim friends/colleagues, try having them outside of the month of Ramadan or after sunset if it’s a dinner party.
Just a little note, if you want to wish your Muslim friends a happy Ramadan, you can say things like “Ramadan Kareem” or simply “Happy Ramadan” and just add your own personalised message at the end.
These little things help and personally, I can tell you, they’re highly appreciated!
6. Why do the dates of Ramadan change every year?
Now, this is another question that tends to confuse non-Muslims, but don’t worry, because it confuses a lot of Muslims too. It’s because the Islamic calendar doesn’t work in the same way the Gregorian one does. Instead, ours works via the lunar calendar, on the phases of the moon but with the addition of science, history, and geographical politics, it can become all the more confusing.
Back in Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) day, astronomical calculations weren’t as precise as they are today, so people went by what they could see with the naked eye, but now, with the advancement of science and technology, scientific calculations can tell us exactly when the new moon begins. But that means waiting until the night, or a few nights before the predicted date.
Either way, there’s always an answer and Ramadan is always observed around the same time for everyone.
7. What is Eid?
Eid-ul-Fitr, also known as ‘The Festival of Breaking the Fast’, is the first Eid celebration of the year that marks the end of Ramadan and also has an extra added importance as it also marks the time in which the Holy Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet (PBUH).
The festival consists of eating food, spending time with loved ones, and just generally celebrating our dedication to Islam. It’s truly a great time and helps bring Muslims all around the world together.
Again, if you want to wish your Muslim counterparts a happy Eid, you can say things like “Eid Mubarak” or simply “Happy Eid” and just add your own personalised message at the end. They work in the same way that “Merry Christmas” messages do, so don’t feel like you’ve got it wrong or that it’s frowned upon, because it’s totally not. It’s adorable!
So there we have it, folks. If you’ve got any more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via Instagram @MVSLIM and we just want to take the time to wish you Ramdan Kareem in advance! Have a blessed one!