Ramadan started on Saturday in Australia, so today you might start to notice your Muslim co-workers and friends skipping lunch. The month of fasting commemorates God’s revelation of the Quran to Muhammad, and believers use this time to practise reflection and self control. So if you aren’t Muslim, how can you be more considerate of those who are? Here are a few tips from people who observe Ramadan, on what they wish others knew.
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First, the basic rules of Ramadan: During this entire lunar month, many observant Muslims won’t eat or drink between sunup and sundown. It’s a religious exercise, where people aim to become closer to God and their community. Part of this involves fasting during the day and eating a celebratory meal at night. Since so much of our lives focus around food, things can get awkward.
“I don’t care if you eat in front of me. Really,” writes Naila Kelani at The Kitchn. If you can avoid it, that’s great: Move your regular lunchtime meeting to a different time of day if you can. But no need to tiptoe. Kelani writes that “effusive apologies and theatric food-hiding [are] unnecessary”.
“Be thoughtful about your questions,” Sarah Hagi writes at Vice. It’s natural to be curious, but “Not even water?” is something you could google, and something your Muslim friend is probably already tired of explaining. It also isn’t appropriate to ask somebody why they’re not fasting, since that’s personal. People who are pregnant or sick are exempt from the rule, for example, and that’s none of your business. That said, Hagi is happy to talk about Ramadan and about her faith with others. It isn’t a taboo topic.
"so, like, not even water?" – white person proverb during Ramadan every year
— #corbynhive (@innitsof) May 24, 2015
But really, not even water. That means a midday workout, or even a walk outside on a hot day, can get pretty miserable. It’s also normal to feel tired toward the end of a day of fasting — so if you’re making plans, keep that in mind. “One summer, my best friend put a cold towel in her freezer for me to cool off rather than offering me a glass of water,” Hagi writes. “It was one of the most kind and thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.”
“You don’t need to fast with us,” Kelani writes. It isn’t a political movement that benefits from solidarity; it also isn’t a diet bandwagon to hop on. That said, you may be invited to break the fast with your Muslim friend. The end-of-day meal, called Iftar, is often a community celebration. (Pro tip: Bring a vegetarian appetiser.) And feel free to wish everyone a Ramadan mubarak.