Ramadan officially starts today, which means Muslims begin fasting for an entire month. Allow me to share some tips for all our non-Muslim friends reading this, in case you’ve had some pressing questions that you’d like to ask a real-life actual Muslim. I call this my “Ramadan Muzzie Manual.”
This is practical advice. For starters, you can say “Ramadan Kareem!” or a simple “Happy Ramadan,” to help us get the month started. In fact, we appreciate the thought and gesture more than you know.
Muslims aren’t a monolith
The first thing you should know is that just like non-Muslims, all Muslims also have their own individual levels of spirituality. Spirituality is a personal journey. I know friends who are trying their hardest to hype themselves up to simply complete one day of fasting. I have other friends who will milk Ramadan for all it’s worth. And then there are those that are everything in between. Many Muslims may not even be fasting. In fact, some have medical reasons that exempt them from fasting. So if you see your Muslim friend isn’t fasting, don’t ask them why. It’s nobody’s business. Feel free to ask if they are observing Ramadan, but if they say no, just leave it at that.
Not even water?
Fasting means no food, drinks, smoking, or anything sexual from sun up to sun down. So for the billionth time, YES… THAT MEANS NO WATER, TOO! Every Muslim hears the phrase “Not even water?” about 100 times every Ramadan. We’re used to the question, but I thought I’d throw this out there so you get the memo.
My breath, my bad!
With no food or water, our breath will be hotter than all three of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons. We know this, and we try to keep a safe distance. Thank God for social distancing this year and the six feet apart rule, but just in case, consider yourself warned. So on behalf of the entire Muzzie Nation, if you get too close, I preemptively say “My bad!”
Temptation doesn’t bother us
No, we don’t care if you eat or drink in front of us. We appreciate the concern for asking. We really do. But it doesn’t bother us. We are used to it, and battling temptation is part of fasting. That doesn’t mean you can be a jerk and wave food in our faces obnoxiously. But please feel free to eat as you normally do. We aren’t offended at all.
Keep it positive
The best part of a conversation between a Muslim and a non-Muslim during Ramadan starts out with positivity. We already know fasting is difficult. That’s the point. So, by hearing you say, “Damn, that sucks,” — although that may be your honest reaction — a more strengths-focused response like “More power to you!” would probably help us feel more supported. Remember, we choose to do this every year for 30 days. It’s not forced upon us. Is it tough to abstain from food and “fun stuff?” Sure. But it doesn’t suck. It’s empowering.
Provide them some slack
The last 10 days of Ramadan are considered some of the holiest days of the year for Muslims. So if your employee, co-worker, or anyone asks for time off, or they come in late near the end of Ramadan, please try to provide reasonable accommodations. I promise you they aren’t out there partying it up. They will most likely be in a mosque every evening in deep prayer and reading from the Quran. Don’t be shy to ask them to slip in a prayer for you during these last ten days of worship.
The struggle is real
You are not allowed to smoke during your fast. Yes, that means cigars, cigarettes, hookah, vape, or whatever else you can smoke. So, yes, some of us will be extra crabby. I promise we don’t hate you. We just need our fix. The struggle is real!
We need to get our caffeine fix
Don’t be scared if you see a bunch of Muzzies parking back to back at your local Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not some “Radical Recruitment Sesh.” Remember, we are fasting all day, so when the sun comes down and we’ve filled ourselves with food, we need our caffeine fix before we head out to our local mosque for our nightly congregation of lectures and prayers. Don’t hesitate to great us with “Ramadan Kareem” if you see us grabbing doughnuts and coffee. We most likely will offer you some donuts to go along with your coffee.
Get ready for the food pics on social media
Lastly, prepare yourself for a massive amount of food pics on your social media feeds during this month of Ramadan, ranging from five-course meals to delectable sweets. If you play your cards right and make a comment about how good it looks, don’t be surprised if we show up at your door with some samples to share. We may even offer you an invitation for the next dinner extravaganza. We love to have people eat with us, so don’t miss out!
I hope this clears up any misconceptions about Ramadan! Do you have friends who fast for Ramadan?