Ramadan is right around the corner, and unfortunately, not many people in America are aware of Ramadan’s rituals, leading to some ignorant remarks. Ramadan is a month when Muslims worldwide fast from dawn until sunset. The meal is set before the first prayer of the day, which is around 1 to 1.5 hours before sunrise. Muslims can break their fast when the call to prayer occurs in the evening when the sun sets. Ramadan is a month of spiritual cleaning during which it is especially important to do the five daily prayers, donate generously and reflect.
- No, not even water
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “You can’t even drink water?” No, not even water. Fasting is a completely dry fast, with no food, water, beverages or even gum. It may not have been your intention, but it comes off as dismissive and is typically indicative of a lack of understanding of Islam. I do not blame you because the American school system does not adequately teach about Islam; but, you should do your own research to avoid ignorance.
- Just eat something, I won’t tell anyone
I’ve heard various versions of this phrase, sometimes accompanied by a laugh and the words “I won’t tell God.” That isn’t the point. The purpose of the fast is to establish discipline and a willingness to refrain from worldly pleasures, in this case food. It definitely puts into perspective how lucky some of us are to have a meal. I just have to fast for a month, but there are individuals who go to bed and wake up hungry each and every day. It is not a burden to me, and I would not do it if I did not want to.
- Why aren’t you fasting today?
This one is directed toward women in particular. If a Muslim woman you know was fasting but is no longer fasting, she is probably menstruating. Do not draw attention to it; many Muslim women have been raised to hide it. Muslim women are permitted to take this break and are not required to fast during this period. Moreover, if someone is unwell or unable to fast for medical reasons, it is not because they do not want to, but because they are unable to. Additionally, if someone does not want to fast, that is their business, not yours.
- Comparing fasting to eating disorders
It has never been and will never be your business to make remarks about other people’s eating habits. Fasting during Ramadan is a good habit, and you should not shame someone for doing something you have never done. It does not encourage disordered eating. If someone’s weight fluctuates, don’t make remarks about it since you don’t know how they will react or how it will affect their body image.
Although this is a list of things you should not say, I encourage you to still be curious about the practice and, if possible, attend an iftar (breaking fast). Undertake your research and learn more about Islam; it will help you to learn something new, broaden your perspectives and confront some previously held ideas. It’s wonderful to hear “Eid Mubarak” from non-Muslim friends. That may seem insignificant, but I treasure it when people acknowledge and celebrate my identity, even going so far as to wish me well on the last day of Ramadan, when Muslims all across the world go to pray and then spend time with their families.