How to Include Others During Ramadan (Part 2)
Parents should expose their children to the myriad of traditions that come with Ramadan, either through celebration in their own home or through interaction with families of other faith or cultures that celebrate holidays that hold special significance to them.
- Normalize Ramadan as an American holiday. If you are a Muslim American and you celebrate Ramadan, then Ramadan is an American holiday — period.
- Read to your children about their faith and culture. Some personal favorites include, “It’s Ramadan Curious George“ and “Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.”
- Volunteer with your children. Humility and service to others is a practice of devotion that will expose your little ones (and yourself) to people and experiences that will remain with them throughout their lives.
- Collaborate with your children’s teacher to incorporate a segment on Ramadan in their coursework, or volunteer to host an Eid henna party in their classroom (or at home)!
- Decorate your home and start special traditions that will stay with your child long after they’ve left your home. I’m swooning over these rainbow garlands by Modern Eid and DIY lantern Eidee-envelopes by Martha Stewart (see — I told you, Ramadan is as American as apple pie).
Converts to Islam are often isolated and left out during the holiest month. Many converts eventually leave the faith after not being accepted by other Muslims, micro-aggressions that question their faith by both Muslims and non-Muslims, and by not having a seat at the table — quite literally — during celebrations.
- Take care of our converts. Nurture them in the community, in spirit and in food!
- Set an example by welcoming them into the community.
- Do not question their faith, police their practice, or pressure them to adopt an Islam that is not comfortable or natural to them.
Muslims who are unable to fast:
Eating disorders: Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. As a month dedicated to proximity to Allah, through lessened consumption (food and otherwise) and distraction as a means of devotion, it becomes a particularly difficult time for Muslims who have struggled or are struggling with an eating disorder.
Ramadan may seem like a perfect opportunity to indulge unhealthy habits without necessarily being “found out” by family and friends. By skipping meals and limiting caloric consumption, even after the fast has been broken, a person struggling with anorexia can dangerously slip from a below average BMI to a dramatically life-threatening BMI in less than a month. Lavish iftar feasts can serve as a ripe environment for overeating, binge eating, night eating, which may be purged later.
Ramadan becomes a particularly difficult time for Muslims who have struggled or are struggling with an eating disorder.
Perhaps in the case of community members challenged by eating disorders, the most important way to “include” them during Ramadan is to create a healthy and open environment in which discussions about such marginalized and taboo topics such as eating disorders vis-a-vis mental health are centralized in the household, community and mosque. We can include and support Muslims who have had difficult relationships with food in the past, but choose to fast this Ramadan:
- Do not expect or pressure them to fast.
- Encourage and support active coordination with a dietician and therapist if they choose to fast.
- Be mindful of the vocabulary you use around the fast, and remember that a fast is not the same as a diet.
- Remember that the intention of Ramadan is to attain nearness to Allah, through prayer and devotion. Focus more on these positive tenants of the Holy month, than on the restrictions.
- If the fast is broken anytime prior to Iftar, or they decide not to fast for the rest of the month, support their decision.
- Demonstrate positive practices with food during suhoor and iftar by eating sensibly (neither restricting or binging).
- Be body positive. Join the self-love club, for life! Use your beauty and your brains to better the world we live in. No body-policing, food-shaming, or health-trolling.
- Decolonize your body & perception of self-worth.
- Don’t keep a secret. If you are concerned about the health of a friend or loved one, seek out a supportive and understanding family or community member (while this can be a mother or aunt, this is not always the case). You cannot force someone to seek medical help, but you can work with other loved ones to help them see the harm in their actions.
- Do not avoid the topic.