Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims everywhere, and our first month of fasting starts on May 27, 2017. Now, every year, there’s always a plethora of questions someone who does not practice Islam might have, and as a Muslim, I will happily answer the majority of these questions for you.
What exactly is Ramadan? What do you do?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and during Ramadan, we fast from sunrise, to sunset. But we do not just fast, we have to abstain from sexual activities, profanity, and any kind of sinful speech and behavior. Before sunrise, we prepare for fasting with suhur, which is basically a pre-meal, and after sunset we finally break our fast, which is called iftar.
What is the point of Ramadan?
The purpose is spiritual, teaching submission to God. It also teaches self control and discipline, and cleansing the soul. It’s actually quite beautiful.
OMG, not even water?!?!
Yes, we abstain from food AND water. Gum also counts. The first few days can be a little difficult, especially if you are in school or at work, however, you get quickly used to it.
What can I, a non-Muslim do to help?
I honestly think it varies on who you ask, but I would just say not to exaggerate what we go through, be mindful of your language, and not to be disrespectful about it. Just let us be, and I think it’s okay.
What do you eat?
Again, it really depends who you ask. Not every Muslim is from the same place, and contrary to popular belief, not all Muslims are Arab. In my family, common things we have are croissants, bread, coffee, msemen, a iconic Moroccan staple, and harira, a Moroccan soup.
Can you just not eat instead? What happens if you eat?
Well, there are people who physically cannot fast. Young children, people with health issues, the elderly, pregnant women and breastfeeding women do not have to fast. People who get periods also have to refrain from fast during their period. Once you are fit to fast again, you can make up those missing days. If you can’t make up those days because you are still unfit to fast, you have to feed one poor person a night during Ramadan. If you eat while you are fit to, it is sort of a bad thing, since fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. You also face society looking down on you, since most Muslims fast, regardless if they are highly religious or not. In my opinion, I really don’t care whether or not you fast. I do, and that’s me, so you do you.
Do you lose or gain weight during Ramadan?
I don’t know about anyone else, but I gain weight. I eat a big meal before sunrise, fast, and eat a big meal after sunset. I do not watch my diet during Ramadan, even though I should, so I gain a few pounds. Do not do this with the intention of losing weight, that can lead to unhealthy weight loss.
These questions are simply just common questions we hear every year. I hope I have covered the basics! Ramadan mubarak!