The Do’s and Don’ts of Ramadan Fasting Month
Ramadan is a time of reflection and celebration of the Qur'an. For non-Muslims, it is a time of tolerance and compassion. Read on to know about some of the do's and don'ts during the fasting month and how you can support your Muslim friends and colleagues.
The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar marks the Ramadan fasting month. During this month-long celebration, Muslims around the globe fast and observe strict rules as a way for all Muslims to be equal and to reflect on all the good things that they have. Activities include abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and engaging in sexual intercourse from sunrise to sunset.
But more than the fasting and practise of self-restraint, Ramadan is the celebration of the Qur'an. "It is the month in which Muslims believe the Qur’an descended from God to the lowest heavens in preparation for revelation, in stages, to Muhammad, the final prophet of Islam," according to Imam Sohaib Sultan of Princeton University.
To celebrate along with fellow Muslims, non-Muslims can follow this list of do's and don'ts and help make Ramadan into a meaningful period of practising tolerance and compassion:
DO put it into perspective. Since they will be fasting for perhaps more than 12 hours, most Muslims get up before dawn for a very early breakfast or sahur. That means they are up from around 4 or 5 in the morning and will fast for the next 12 hours at least. So if a Muslim co-worker yawns during a meeting, please understand that it’s not because he or she finds it uninteresting. It is just a bodily reflex.
DO join them for the iftar. To better understand Ramadan, ask Muslim friends or colleagues if you could join them for the fast-breaking meal called iftar. Having a meal together is always a good opportunity to bond with and get to know a person.
DO be on time if accepting invitation for iftar (break of fast). That final one minute of fasting is very crucial and Muslims look forward for the azan to be exclaimed to break the fast. You don’t want your fasting host to wait for you when all the food is ready before them.
DO be patient and show consideration for the long hours of fasting. While they say hungry people are angry people, fasting is still not an excuse for bad behaviour. But if a Muslim friend or co-worker does snap, practising patience will be much appreciated. Don't hesitate, though, to gently remind the person in return to be extra mindful of exercising good manners.
DON’T gossip near or around your Muslim friends. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said to two ladies that they were actually not fasting (on a particular day of Ramadan) because they have talked ill of others behind them. Ramadan is a time of "training the soul in deeper mindfulness," according to Imam Sohaib Sultan. Therefore, gossiping, among other things, will greatly reduce the rewards of fasting.
DON’T eat or drink in front of those who are fasting. Your fasting friends will appreciate your understanding by not eating or drinking in front of them. But if you really have to take a sip or have a bite of your just-delivered Big Mac, it is common courtesy to ask for their permission to do it in front of them.
DON’T offer food during fasting. Your fasting friend will appreciate your respect of their customs rather than feel offended if you do not offer her that crispy popiah you bought on your way back from lunch for a mid-afternoon snack. If you must offer something for iftar, which occurs around 7:30pm, consider food that will stay fresh and that follows the Islamic dietary laws.
DON’T tempt your fasting friend to overeat. Just because they have been deprived all day, it doesn’t mean that Muslims should indulge during iftar. One of the reasons behind abstaining from food is to inculcate modesty in eating. So if you want to buy your fasting friend a meal for the iftar, bear in mind to practice modesty.
By keeping these tips in mind, you won't need to fret about whether you are showing the right sensitivity during Ramadan. Your Muslim friends will definitely appreciate your thoughtfulness!