This May will see the start of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic lunar calendar. It’s during this month that Muslims undergo a month of fasting. Apart from abstaining from food and drink, we refrain from sexual relations, smoking, other worldly desires and temptations, and sinful behaviour. We increase our prayer, reading of the Qur’an (the Islamic Holy Book), as well as giving to charity and doing good deeds, and hopefully, we take on all the improvements we’ve made to ourselves into the rest of the year. It’s also a time to remind us of those that are less fortunate than us. Many Muslims living here in the West face much curiosity and questioning from non-Muslim acquaintances whilst observing the month, that it has become a source of comedy within the Muslim community, with the multiple questions we face, whether it be from friends, colleagues or anyone else we interact with. So I thought, why not bring you all into the joke and answer those questions you’re always dying to ask.
What are Muslims tired of hearing during Ramadan?
So you don’t eat or drink for 30 days straight?
Muslims fast between the hours of sunrise and sunset. No food or drink and before you ask, not even water!! Many will have a small meal or breakfast type meal before the sun rises (this year sunrise ranges from roughly 2.30-3.30am in the UK) to prepare for the day ahead and then a sunset, we break our fast. Often this is done with dates and water, followed by dinner.
You must put on loads of weight then?
Truth is, many of us don’t eat looooads like people tend to expect. In Islam, we’re meant to eat in moderation anyway and during Ramadan, that’s no different. Personally, I find myself getting full quite quickly once I’ve had a few dates, pieces of fruit and a glass of water. Yes, in many households we make dinner during Ramadan a bit more of a big deal and have a nice spread, but to be honest, we don’t go and eat a tonne and I know in my family, we end up eating pretty much the same we usually do. So no weight gained. At the end of the day, Ramadan isn’t about weight gain or not, but about our faith and enhancing our relationship with God.
Can you have a cheat day?
It would defeat the point of trying to better ourselves and think about those less fortunate if we just gave up one day because we were finding that day a bit difficult. While fasting is compulsory for all Muslims once they have reached the age of puberty, there are some people exempt from it. This includes anyone who is ill, chronically ill, diabetic, pregnant, breastfeeding, elderly and travelling. For women, we also do not fast when we are on our periods. So if you see someone you know who is Muslim and not fasting, these may be one of the reasons.
Can I eat in front of you?
Personally, I’m fine with this. The world has to keep going on around me regardless of whether I’m eating or not. It doesn’t really affect me to see someone eating or drinking in front of me. In fact, the constant questioning and apologising is what gets a little annoying more than you eating in front of me. I would say, just be mindful in general if you’re planning on any social activities or work shindigs and you know someone will be fasting in the group.
Oh, I would never be able to fast!
It’s actually not as bad as you might think. Yes, it is challenging but honestly Most of the time the day goes by and you’re generally OK. But then, of course, some days can affect you more than others. What I always say to anyone that says that they wouldn’t be able to do it is, if it really matters to you, you will be able to do it. Its the same way people go vegetarian, vegan…..or even do a juice cleanse for 10 days straight – that’s important to them, so they’re able to do it. So if the meaning behind fasting and Ramadan is of significance to you, you will be able to do it too.
I can understand the interest in Ramadan and all that comes with it seeing as for many, fasting is an unthinkable thing to do. Generally, Muslims and Islam are very misunderstood in today’s society, but this month could be the time you take advantage to get to know more about Muslims and their religion. Ask your questions, but be thoughtful about them. We’re always happy to answer questions and let people know about our religion from our point of view…and maybe we might just ask you to join us in a fast or two.
Written by Aisha Rimi
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