What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It commemorates and celebrates the first revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and Muslims look forward to its beginning every year. It is a spiritual cleanse that helps us connect deeper with our faith.
“The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. [Noble Quran 2:185]
Muslims abstain from water and food, sexual activity and smoking from dawn to sunset. Lying, talking badly about someone and anger are all behaviors avoided while fasting. That is not to say that those behaviors are accepted outside of Ramadan, but it is even worse to do them during this month.
After a day of fasting and increased remembrance of Allah, it is time for Muslims to break their fast with dates and water. Breaking the fast with dates is following the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. When Muslims are following his example and tradition it is called Sunnah. Muslims try their best to engage in more acts of Sunnah during Ramadan, such as supplicating to God after breaking their fast and eating with the right hand.
Evening hours at the mosques are packed full of people praying for hours in congregation. It is a special and beautiful time of prayer that sometimes involves tears. These evening prayers are also considered part of following the example of the Prophet and they bring the community together as one.
Ramadan – A Month of Opportunities
Islam teaches us the Creator wants His creation to enter Paradise, so He gives them abundant opportunities to come closer to Him. One of these opportunities is in Ramadan, when the deeds of a person are multiplied in excess. Thus, you are likely to notice a lot of generosity during Ramadan; some Muslim families donate their annual charity during this time, which is also another pillar of Islam. Many Muslims dedicate more time towards doing charitable deeds in Ramadan such as visiting the sick in the hospital.
Muslims reflect more on the homeless and struggling during Ramadan. When you fast all day you feel hunger and thirst, but you know you have food and water to break your fast at the end of the day. Muslims are encouraged to look to those struggling, help them and find greater gratitude for the blessings they have.
What if you are a Non-Muslim around friends of colleagues fasting during Ramadan, do you need to behave differently?
First and foremost, no you don’t and you’re not expected to. Muslims will appreciate you learning about Ramadan, but they will not be offended if you don’t.
1. Ramadan Greeting
You can tell your friends and coworkers “Ramadan Mubarak” which translates to Happy Ramadan. It is a time to celebrate and feel grateful for our blessings from God. Telling someone Ramadan Mubarak or Happy Ramadan is a friendly way to extend those good feelings to others.
2. Eating in Front of Muslims
Don’t worry, you can still eat in front of Muslims or drink a glass of cold water. Most Muslims have been fasting for many years, they are used to being around people eating and drinking while they fast. You are not going to offend someone or make their fasting too difficult, remember they are choosing to do this for God. That being said, it would be a sign of respect towards Muslims if avoid scheduling events around food like work lunches during this month.
3. Bad Breath
Please understand this is a response to not eating and drinking all day. The breath takes on a more musky scent.You might notice Muslims keeping more distance from you while talking. They are doing it for your benefit. Major diet changes often result in changes to one’s breath.
4. Fasting With Us
If you want to fast alongside Muslims, you are more than welcome and your local Muslims can help you. Don’t feel pressured to fast for the entire day as Muslims do, you can try for a half-day. Muslims eat their meal in the morning called suhoor) right before fasting begins. It is a healthy meal with plenty of water meant to sustain them throughout the day and it is Sunnah to eat suhoor.
5. Ask Muslims Questions
Don’t just read about Ramadan, go to the Muslims around you with your questions. They will be happy to answer you and explain their experiences to you.
Join Muslims During Ramadan
If you have never visited a mosque before, Ramadan is the perfect time for your first experience. When sunset comes, Muslims break their fast and have what is called an Iftar meal. You are welcome to join and spend time in fellowship with Muslims. Often mosques will host community Iftar meals during the weekends and all are invited, Muslim and non-Muslim. The community meals are a delicious blend of different recipes, which can taste even better after not eating all day.
Most mosques have a website or Facebook page that will let you know the hours for their prayer services and Iftar meals. It is a good idea to call the mosque ahead of time so you can schedule someone to meet you and show you around. It would be appreciated if you wore modest attire while inside of a mosque. Don’t hesitate to ask people questions about Islam and about Ramadan while visiting.
Remember the Reason Muslims Fast
It is important to remember Ramadan is more than just abstinence from food and drink. It increases self-awareness of the special relationship between you and God. Ramadan is a time of deep reflection and remembrance of God. This remembrance and increasing one’s God-consciousness is often done through the reading of Quran or recitation. Quran is the literal word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad ﷺ, so it makes sense that Muslims spend extra time with Quran during Ramadan. If you would like a Quran for yourself, you can order a free English translation of the Quran HERE.