What is Ramadan?
In Islamic culture, Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year. This Holy month marks when Allah (or God) gave the first chapters of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
Muslims follow the lunar calendar, which is based off the phases of the moon, so each year Ramadan falls on a different date. There's a saying by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about waiting to start the fast until the crescent moon is visible. So, for this year, Ramadan is expected to fall on April 2nd & approximately end May 2nd.
Why Do Muslims Fast?
In Islam, there is what they call The Five Pillars, which are the core beliefs and practices of Islam. So, one of The Five Pillars is fasting during Ramadan along with Zakat (charitable giving), Shahada (testimony of faith), Salaah (prayer), and Hajj (making a pilgrimage to Mecca). It is required for all Muslims to fast every year, however, there are special exceptions for those who are: ill, pregnant or nursing, menstruating, or traveling and for children and the elderly.
The month of Ramadan can serve both spiritual and social purposes. The act of fasting is meant to make one understand what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty so they gain a stronger compassion for those in need. Through reducing the distractions in their life most Muslims find a deeper connection with God
How Does Fasting Work?
During Ramadan, Muslims are to refrain from eating any food & drinking any liquids from dawn to sunset. This includes taking medication as well, even if you dry swallow a pill. Also chewing gum is prohibited (although when I was a kid, my grandfather jokingly told me it 'doesn't count' & I believed him).
So, if you were to do any of these things it would "eliminate" your fast for the day and you would try again the next day. If you were to miss out on fasting, it's still possible to make up the days at any point during the year either all at once or spread out. You could also provide a meal for a person in need to make up a day of fasting.
Abstaining from eating or drinking is not the only things Muslims do during Ramadan. It is also asked of Muslims to avoid negative thoughts and emotions like jealousy or anger. And even minimal things such as: swearing, complaining, and gossiping for the whole month.
My Ramadan Experiences
When I was a little kid, I was not required to fast but when I got to middle school age I began participating in Ramadan. One of my first experiences during Ramadan consisted of me making the bold decision to fast on the day we did the mile run in 7th grade PE. Imagine (barely) pulling off a mile run without drinking water...it's amazing I did not pass out!
At the end of Ramadan we have what we call, "Eid al-Fitr" which translates to "Small Eid" and "Eid al-Adha" which translates to "Big Eid" since it marks 60 days after Eid al-Fitr and usually involves a larger celebration. Both days are a joyous celebration that involves food, gifts, and spending time with family. As a little kid, I always looked forward to Eid because I got to open gifts & play with my cousins. I like to think of it as our version of Christmas.
Throughout the years, I began to enjoy Ramadan more and more. Not only did I find myself gaining a closer relationship with God, but also a tougher mindset. Every time Ramadan comes around, I actually look forward to it because I believe it truly makes me a stronger person in all aspects: spiritually, academically, socially, professionally, etc.
My most reflective Ramadan experience has to be during the time of the COVID19 lockdown in 2020. This was an extremely difficult time for me, as for the rest of the world too, and I experienced major depression and loneliness. Every day I felt unmotivated, frustrated, lonely, and overall mentally exhausted. However, when Ramadan finished--I realized that I had not felt depressed at all during the entire 30 days I fasted. Prior to Ramadan 2020 starting, I had thought I'd have a difficult time fasting because of the mental battle I was experiencing, but I was proven wrong. When I came upon this realization, it legit brought me to tears (it still does as I'm writing this) because it forced me to remember that I have God looking over me and guiding me through the good and the bad times.
So, I am looking forward to Ramadan starting soon (although it begins a day after my birthday--yikes) and developing a stronger connection to God as well as strengthening my mindset to be a better person not just for everyone, but for myself.
~ You Have To Fast 30 Days Straight.
This could not be more wrong! It is physically impossible to fast for that many consecutive days. We only fast from sunrise from sunset each day.
~ You Can Still Drink Water Right?
I've gotten this question loads of times & the answer hasn't changed: nope, not even water! Fasting during the month of Ramadan means the abstinence of eating and drinking. It makes you feel extremely grateful for having access to clean water--which isn't the case for most countries in this world.
~ You Can't Be Around Others Who Are Eating.
False! If you were eating a slice of pizza in front of me it doesn't mean I'm unable to think of anything else. It's considerate to be aware of those fasting, but most times the fasting person doesn't even notice. Thank you though!
5 Things To Be Aware Of During Ramadan
1. Don't Assume Reasons Why Someone Isn't Fasting.
There are many reasons why a person opts out of fasting and those deal with the person's: age, health, and whether or not they're menstruating. People with an illness (ranging from the common cold to diabetes) can be exempt from fasting. Also, pregnant people are exempt from fasting since it's extremely vital to provide nutrients for the growing fetus. So all in all, it's respectful to not ask someone why they aren't fasting since it can stem from a variety of reasons.
2. You Can Still Invite Your Muslim Friends Out.
When Ramadan starts, we don't automatically become anti-social and stay in bed all day (although that's preferred). We actually love being able to kill time with family and/or friends doing extracurricular activities that are not surrounded by eating & drinking. If you do want to invite your Muslim friends for dinner, schedule it after sunset so they can eat. Just remember: Muslims don't drink alcohol or eat pork but we don't mind being around it. Don't worry, we're not vampires!
3. Try to Remember Not to Offer a Food/Drink to Your Muslim Friend.
It's easy for us Muslims to forget that we're fasting and absentmindedly accept a sip of your fruit-tastic smoothie or salty potato chips. Don't worry if you do though, we're not going to condemn you for it. Unless, you did it on purpose--then you're a jerk.
4. Don't Feel Like You Have to Fast In Solidarity.
I would never expect my non-Muslim friends to fast alongside me in solidarity because it's simply not necessary. Plus, choosing to fast should have moral intentions--not just because someone you know is fasting. But if you truly want to give it a shot--go ahead!
5. Be Mindful of the "Ramadan Brain".
Every year, I have to remind those around me that my brain capacity reaches a certain limit while I'm fasting. And I like to call it "Ramadan Brain". So, if it looks like your Muslim friend or acquaintance seems mentally checked out during a conversation, don't take it personally. They're experiencing Ramadan Brain. Expect a well developed response after sunset. But if they're in a food coma, there will be a 2-3 day delay.
Want to wish your Muslim friend a Happy Ramadan or Eid?
Simply say: "Happy Ramadan!" or "Happy Eid!"
If you want to be more culturally aware, you can say:
"Ramadan/Eid Kareem" (which means 'have a generous Ramadan/Eid')
"Ramadan/Eid Mubarak" (which means 'have a blessed Ramadan/Eid')
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