Every year, millions of Muslims around the world observe Ramadan – an Islamic month of dusk-to-dawn fasting and spiritual detoxification. After 30 days of abstaining from food, beverages and bad habits, the end is marked by the feast and celebration of Eid al-Fitr.
For those who don’t practice Islam, Ramadan can raise many questions. “Why can you only eat at night?” “Are you ever allowed to break your fast?” “You can’t even drink water?” Instead of being uninformed, we like to make the effort to learn about the unfamiliar. Our very own Sidrah Khatoon answered Ramadan FAQs below, explaining some aspects of the holy month you may not have known.
Why do you fast during Ramadan? Is there more to it than just not eating/drinking?
I would say there are two sides of fasting during Ramadan. There is the purpose and there is the outcome. As Muslims (followers of the Islam religion), our purpose is to connect to our God, connect to our religion and better ourselves. We do this by not only omitting food, water, and smoking, but also other habits such as swearing, gossiping, or being angry. This leads to the outcome, which is essentially what we get from fasting all day. We are connecting with those who are less fortunate and grounding ourselves in our religion at the same time. It is also important to understand that Ramadan is a celebration – a joyous month in the Islamic calendar where Muslims believe the Quran was sent to the earth as a miracle. When you learn that a fellow individual is fasting, a common phrase to say is “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak” which means “Have a Blessed or Generous Ramadan”. Avoid saying things like “Oh, you can’t eat – that sucks!” because it doesn’t suck, it’s beautiful.
“Sabr” means patience in Arabic, explains Sidrah. Therefore, “Finding patience.”
Why can you only eat/drink before sunrise and after sunset?
This is a complex question. A simple answer is that one must fast from an hour before daybreak until sunset because it is clearly indicated in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam.
Is it difficult or frustrating when people eat/drink around you during the day?
It can be difficult, but Ramadan is kind of like training your heart vs. your body. Similar to when you’re on a diet and all your friends are eating McDonald fries and you’re drinking a kale juice. Get it? It’s definitely not frustrating to see others drink and eat around you, though it can be slightly awkward to reject every dinner plan that comes your way.
Are there any exceptions in which you’re allowed to break from the fast?
Not everyone must fast during Ramadan. Women who are pregnant or nursing are not required to fast. The elderly and young children also may not fast. Those who have medical conditions that might be disturbed by fasting are usually not required to fast either.
Zamzam is like holy water, so it’s kind of a joke saying that if you see something that you’re to refrain from during Ramadan, then you’ll need to put holy water in your eyes. We don’t actually do that. LOL
What are the most challenging things about celebrating Ramadan?
There are some frustrating things that I personally go through while celebrating Ramadan like 1) Gaining weight since I’m dehydrated, 2) Ramadan acne because I’m… well, dehydrated and 3) bad breath because I’m uh, dehydrated. However, when Muslims break their fast, we realize our bodies are weaker than our hearts. Where I abstain from getting angry with the TTC for being so darn slow, I feel strong for being patient and understanding. It’s difficult when all you want to do is react on your emotions, but you have to fight yourself not to.
Suhoor is the time period in the morning in which we’re allowed to eat during Ramadan. Iftar is when we have our post-dusk meal. (Suhoor is usually around 3am, Iftar is around 9pm.)
Do you ever get annoyed of being asked the same questions again and again every year?
Every year that I have fasted at Ryerson University, I’ve been at a different job, which essentially means that I’ve had to explain why I wasn’t eating lunch with the rest of the team each time. It’s not annoying, but it is definitely a scary thing to do. It’s scary because I really never know where to start, how bring up the subject of religion in the workplace or what people’s opinion about it might be. I can most gratefully say, that I have always been surrounded by open minded, curious and respectful individuals on campus. If that means I have to answer “what does Ramadan mean?” and “Why can’t you drink water?” a million times, I will. I would rather people ask questions and spark conversation than shy away from learning.
Sidrah’s disclaimer: These questions are answered in my personal experiences. Islam is one of the most practiced religions in the world, so some may agree, while others may have different ways of observing Ramadan.