A Ramadhan etiquette guide for non-Muslims
What is Ramadhan? Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is among the most spiritually fulfilling period for Muslims.
It is a season in which the Koran was revealed as guidance for mankind.
The fast of Ramadhan is among the five pillars of Islam and during this period it is obligatory for Muslims to abstain from eating, drinking and intimate relationships with their spouses from dawn to dusk.
Why do Muslim fast in Ramadhan?
Fasting is a phenomena which is not unique to Islam, but also evident in other faiths such as Christianity and Judaism.
In keeping with the divine commandment, Muslims from across the globe observe the fast of Ramadhan with the main goal of achieving a state of God-consciousness (Taqwa) as mentioned in the Koran, “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it has been prescribed to those before you in order that you may attain taqwa.” (Chapter 2, Verse 183).
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Taqwa is a reflection of the essence of piety which nurtures righteousness and promotes the purification of the heart and mind.
For Muslims, Ramadhan is a great opportunity for spiritual as well as physical purification and is expected that after the month-long spiritual training exercise, a Muslim will come out of this period a better person spiritually, physically and mentally.
Do Muslims go hungry for the whole day?
The fast begins at the break of dawn and lasts up to sundown.
After sunset, a fasting person is permitted to eat as he pleases though eating in moderation is highly recommended while extravagance in food is frowned upon.
During the fast-breaking meal (Iftar) many Muslims invite family and friends as well as non-Muslims to share in the spirit of Ramadhan.
Before the start of the fast, a predawn meal called the suhoor is highly recommended for the fasting person.
Among the benefits of this meal is that it helps in providing energy to a fasting person which eases the difficulties of fasting.
Who is required to fast?
Fasting during the month of Ramadhan is an obligation upon every mature, sane, and healthy Muslim.
The elderly, the sick, women in their menses, expectant mothers, breastfeeding women, those on a journey and young children are exempted from fasting.
In the Koran, God states “All?h intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify All?h for that [to] which He has guided you, and perhaps you will be grateful.”
[Chapter 2, Verse 185] While children who have not reached the age of puberty are exempted from fasting it is recommended to train them to fast a portion of the day or some days during the month of Ramadhan.
As for your Muslim friends please note:
1. You can totally eat in front of us ... Just because Ramadhan is here with us it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry on business as usual, however you can be considerate.
(Just turn a deaf ear to our growling stomachs) and don’t expect us to serve you any food or drink during our fast.
2. ... but try not to schedule a work lunch If you have to host a lunch meeting, you should. But don’t feel bad if we sit there, like a vegetarian friend at a nyama choma bash.
If your Muslim co-worker takes a pass, understand.
3. You don’t have to fast with us ... you can, if you want, to see what it feels like. But it’s not going to hurt our feelings - even if we’re best friends.
4. ... but you can join us for Iftar Iftar is the breaking of the fast after sundown. We like to make it a big communal meal. When invited please come.
5. We’ll still go for coffee with you ... No, we can’t drink. Not even water. But we’ll walk with you if you want to take a break.
6. ... but we may keep our distance. One word: Halitosis. you try not eating or drinking for the entire day. That’s why we’re standing a foot away from you when we talk.
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