For the next month, practicing Muslims around the world will be observing Ramadan, which means some of your friends may be, too. Here’s a few things you should know about about Ramadan, and by extension, your friends:
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The term Ramadan in itself doesn’t constitute the act of fasting, rather, it is the name of the month in which Muslims fast. According to the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan does not occur on the same month each year; it is subject to the sighting of the moon in Mecca, following a lunar calendar. The Quran was believed to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadan, and so the month-long act of fasting is in commemoration of that auspicious moment. Fasting, called Sawm in Arabic, is one of the Five Pillars, or acts, of Islam.
Wait – you can’t eat for a whole month?
No, we can eat. We have free reign to eat from sundown to sunrise. The fasting period begins from sunrise, and ends as the sun sets, every day, and it’s during that time that no particles can pass through the mouth, no eating, no drinking. No smoking or sex either.
You can’t even drink water??
During the period of fasting, we can’t. Think of it as an exercise of self-control. It makes us more appreciative of what we have when we have it.
Can you do anything?
We’re not obsolete just because of the whole “no particles pass through the mouth” thing. Other than the aforementioned, we can do just about anything, although you won’t see us going up in the club for some time.
Isn’t it hard to not eat or drink at all?
Chances are, if we’re fasting, we’ve made the conscious choice to fast, so you don’t need to worry about our well-being. We break our fast at sundown with Iftar, the meal which observes the completion of a day of fasting, and before sunrise we have Suhoor. Some of us even have dinner in between Iftar and Suhoor. More or less our dietary habits pre-Ramadan, only we eat at different times for the month. It’s like a detox or a cleanse, without having to pay for disgustingly overpriced juices.
How are kids supposed to fast all day? What about school?
Well, kids don’t have to fast. In fact, Muslims aren’t required to fast until they hit puberty, but many Muslim kids will fast for the month or even just for a few days because it feels like a rite of passage to adulthood, a sense of kinship and community. Many of us were pleading our parents to let us fast pre-puberty so we could compete and swap notes with friends. Most kids we know have more energy than any adult could hope for, and they can participate fully in school. It’s up to the school and the community to be respectful and understanding of that.
But they banned fasting in those schools in London…
Yeah, they did, and the people behind it are absolutely ignorant. They don’t know the first thing about Muslims or Ramadan, and have zero respect and tolerance for our community.
What if you’re sick? What about old people???
The sick, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a medical condition, alongside children, don’t have to fast. Us women also get a hall pass when we’re on our period.
Is Eid the same thing as Kwanzaa?
No. No no no no no. Eid, or rather, Eid al-Fitr is the celebration of the end of Ramadan. It begins with a special prayer held throughout mosques, and then we feast with family and friends until we need personal cranes to hoist us up from our food comas. Eid will probably fall on the 17th or 18th of July this year. Kwanzaa lasts a week, and is the celebration of the African diaspora in the Americas. See how different they are? Remember, just because they don’t sound English, doesn’t mean they’re the same.
Is there any saying for Eid, like, “Merry Christmas”?
We hug and say “Eid Mubarak”, which is equivalent to “Let’s eat!”
Well, there’s a lot. But let’s work with what we have for now. In the meantime, don’t stop and gawk when you see crowds emerging from mosques on the 17th or 18th next month. Say “Eid Mubarak” instead to passersby. Don’t gawk in general. It’s rude.