Mark your calendars because, on March 22, 2023, Ramadan will begin! Muslims will celebrate the holiest month in their calendar from March 22 to April 21, 2023. We’re excited and wanted to share some insight on why!
For some background, Muslims worldwide follow a lunar calendar that dates back to 622 A.D. in Gregorian years. During the month, Muslims strengthen their spiritual connections through activities to encourage community and faith. These include reading the Quran, visiting the mosque, and performing increased prayer. The most popular, however, is the act of fasting.
Muslims abstain from food and drink, including water, from sunrise to sunset. Muslims also eliminate bad habits, such as lying, gossiping and cursing. Instead, they use the time often put into cooking and eating towards more thoughtful activities such as strengthening their faith and helping their community. Charity is recommended during Ramadan, and Muslims often gather a lot of money and supplies for those in need during these months.
Around fasting, multiple countries have unique traditions when celebrating Ramadan. Ending a day of fasting with a fancy feast and tamr (dates) surrounded by loved ones is universally accepted. Many cultures invite friends and family over for large iftars — dinner served after fasting. Moreover, after breaking their fast, Muslims usually do voluntary prayers at the masjid called Taraweeh to further build a connection to God. However, after a day of thoughtful meditation, Muslims spend the night enjoying time with each other, playing games, eating food, and building relationships (if they can spare the sleep). In anticipation of Ramadan, we often decorate our household with lights, lanterns and lunar decorations. I’m buying decorations right now!
Though we enjoy fasting, it can be tiring to live in a Western world not accustomed to our religious traditions. Attending work, class, and meetings on top of completing our tasks and goals leaves us exhausted. So we’ve compiled a list of things you can do to help make sure your Muslim peers are not overwhelmed.
If someone asks for accommodations, please listen! This often revolves around rescheduling tasks during iftar time or allowing time for one of the five daily prayers a Muslim performs. For Muslims reading this, reach out to your superiors as soon as possible. You are legally allowed accommodations for your faith. All parties can contact their local administrator or Muslim Student Association for more questions.
The last thing we need to hear is snarky comments. Offering us food when “no one is looking” or commenting on how Ramadan is “difficult” feels microaggressive. Just let us practice our faith in peace. Muslims, look for a support group on your campus, even to discuss your academic stress. UC Berkeley has a club called CALMMHI, which offers free counseling services for Muslim students.
It’s not unheard of to have non-Muslims join us. Instead of commenting on how hard it is to go a day without food, challenge yourself to do the same. Then join one of the local clubs offering free iftars to learn more about our experiences as Muslim students. (Muslims, there are going to be multiple clubs and mosques providing free food, take advantage of it!)
I’ve said this multiple times, but my peers and I are excited to celebrate Ramadan this year. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact your local Muslim-run organization. Happy early Ramadan!