Every annoying thing people will ask you during Ramadan
No, it’s not just a really early breakfast and late dinner
by Roda Musa
Ramadan Mubarak. Have a happy Ramadan! As a time of spirituality, charity and love it’s the perfect time for Muslims to celebrate with their families and friends, in appreciation of all the blessings in our lives. A time to be grateful and content and to remember those in need. A time to answer lots and lots of annoying questions from your non-Muslim friends. Questions like these:
‘Wait a minute… not even water?’
Ramadan is the holiest time of the year for many Muslims around the world, some of your co-workers, friends and neighbours will no doubt be observing this month of worship and reflection. So it’s always best to educate yourself a little so you don’t accidentally say something offensive or make life harder for the Muslims around you at this time. So here’s a little advice on what not to say.
And no, not even water.
‘But it’s so hot! You must be dying’
Muslims follow the lunar calendar, and yes this year the month of fasting, that’s 30 days in a row, from sunrise to sunset, falls on the hottest time of the year. It’s an exercise in discipline and devotion, one that will probably prove very trying this year with the hot weather and long days. Yet while fasting Muslims have to control all their bad habits, otherwise your fast is broken. So swearing, talking badly about people, judging others – all banned, it’s not just food. Muslims make a conscious effort during Ramadan to drop these habits and hopefully come out of the month a much better person as a whole. It’s also a time Muslims will try to increase their level of charity to those in need.
‘So you just have a really early breakfast?’
I remember in secondary school, when I tried using the excuse of fasting to get out of running the loop, a ten minute run around the park, my P.E teacher told me she’d had an early breakfast too so I still had to run.
Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal we have is really early, like really early this year. Muslims have to get all their eating and drinking done before 3am this month, and a lot of the times, you’re still full up from the breaking of the fast, Iftar, that happened a few hours before. Additionally Muslims have taraweeh, night prayers, so after fasting, reading the Quran and going about their normal daily lives of work and school, a lot of them stay in the Mosque to pray well into the night. So excuse your co-workers for sleeping through your lunchtime chats.
‘They do it to feel like the poor and see how it’s like to live with no food’
Well, not quite.
The poor and disadvantaged Muslims fast too all around the world. So they don’t do it to feel like themselves? It’s best you don’t try to explain Ramadan for Muslims, leave that to the Muslims. Ramadan is an extremely important time for us, and so reducing it simply to ‘feeling like the poor’ isn’t alright. It’s described as the month that the gates to heaven open, within its last ten days it contains the night of power, “laylatul qadr”, in which the holy Quran was revealed to mankind. Muslims are given this time to cleanse their hearts, contemplate their relationship with God, and reflect on their character and to be forgiven for all the wrongs of the previous months of the year.
It’s a deeply spiritual time for many, for Muslims to take a step back from all the madness that is life and all their problems and worries, and focus on their love for god and the betterment of humanity as a whole.
‘But like, does everyone have to fast? You can’t opt out?’
Technically no, fasting is a religious obligation in Islam for every Muslim to participate in, along with belief in god, daily prayers, giving in charity and the pilgrimage to Makkah. These are the five pillars in which Islam stands on. However there are obvious exceptions, like pregnant and breastfeeding women, if you’re menstruating, if you’re sick or elderly or if you’re too young or travelling you don’t have to fast, you are exempt from this duty. So don’t worry too much.
Also Eid is at the end of Ramadan, which no, is not like Christmas but is a time for dressing up, receiving money from your relatives and eating as much sweets as possible.
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