This week will mark an important date for all the Muslims around the world as they embark on the month of Ramadan. Here’s how you can be thoughtful to your Muslim mates.
Ramadan’s a big deal for all Muslims around the world. Before the joyous Eid celebration where we put on spiffy new clothes and traditional outfits, there’s still the month of Ramadan to go through. Often referred to as the holiest month on the Muslim calendar, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk every day, abstaining from food and drink. Ramadan is also a month of reflection and repentance, so individuals will also abstain from negative thoughts and emotions like anger and impatience, and other vices too.
To some, the month of Ramadan is shrouded in mystery. If you live or work in Singapore, it’s highly likely that you’ll know someone who will be observing Ramadan and know about some of the rules. But for the clueless sorts, there might be a lot of questions you might have… that we can answer!
#1: So… can we still eat around you?
Sure you can – but do ask your friend first. Some folks might be ‘chill’ with their friends having lunch around them, but for some it might be too distracting. Most Muslims won’t take offence, but do ask first just to be sure. Otherwise, it’ll be cool to join them when they break fast (iftar) at dusk. +10 thoughtful points.
#2: Do you lose a lot of weight from fasting?
Fasting is not really about weight loss. On the contrary, Ramadan might even lead to weight gain! Eating large meals in the wee hours of the morning, and then late at night, with a long period of low activity in between can be bad on the metabolism (plus with all the Ramadan bazaars popping up). Of course, there’s the part about self-discipline, and one can actually manage to keep the weight gain off.
#3: You can’t eat and drink, but you can smoke right?
No! The fasting month is all about self-discipline – which means giving up vices like smoking, drinking, and even gossiping about others. Sexual activity during the duration of the fast is also not allowed.
#4: What about brushing teeth?
Brushing your teeth is perfectly fine during Ramadan. In fact, maintaining good personal hygiene is considered to be very important within the religion. Islam places emphasis on both physical and spiritual cleanliness and purification. Another day, gingivitis!
#5: You fasted for a whole day, so you can feast later when you break fast right?
Regardless of fasting, overeating is always bad. Iftar is the meal to replenish and hydrate after a whole day of not eating and drinking, so being selective about the food you eat is important – especially avoiding fatty foods that might affect energy levels and your mood or you’ll be in a constant state of… food coma.
#6: Do you have to rest all day because you don’t have energy from not eating?
It’s better to not be sedentary all day during Ramadan, because low levels of activity can lead to weight gain. Exercising is fine during the fasting month but perhaps nothing too strenuous. On a side note, do be understanding when your friend or colleague is feeling a little lethargic during the day; not only haven’t they eaten all day, they had to wake up super early for sahur (the pre-fasting meal)!
#7: Must sick people fast too?
Surprise, surprise, there are exemptions. Fasting during Ramadan is encouraged for those who are considered well and fit enough to do so but if you are ill or have any health conditions which may suffer from fasting, you are not obliged to fast. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are exempt, as are those on their periods. If you are travelling or on a long journey, you’re also permitted to eat and drink as normal. People in these groups are expected to make up the days missed at a later stage, if they are well enough to. It is also not necessary for young children and the elderly to fast.
Do you have any questions about the month of Ramadan? Let us know!