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From April 12th to May 12th, the holy month of Ramadan was observed by Muslims around the globe. Thursday, May 13th, was Eid Al-Fitr, a celebration of our month of observance and dedication to faith. There have been questions about what this means asked by members of this community. This is an attempt to cover those questions and better inform the  Friends Select community. 

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. People who follow the religion of Islam recognize Ramadan as the month in which Allah (God) gave the revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad. It is remembered through fasting and concludes with a festival called Eid al Fitr, commonly known as Eid or even “The Festival of Breaking the fast”.

Cans and Cannots of Ramadan:

During Ramadan, many Muslims fast. This means not eating, drinking, or participating in any “extracurricular” activities. There are many additional things that Muslims sacrifice during Ramadan, but other than these main three, it varies from family to family and person to person.

Can you drink water while fasting?

No! Not even water!

What is the “purpose” of fasting as it pertains to Ramadan?

It is an observance celebrating the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. Fasting is performed as an act of sacrifice. It is also an act of empathy to experience what those with less privilege go through. 

This is a sacrifice and a way for people to feel closer to Allah by giving up something important. It also allows people to feel the struggle and empathize with those who may not be able to. 

Prayer times and eating times:

There are five prayers a day; Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, and Isha’a. The prayers fall before sunrise, one after midday, one midafternoon, a prayer to break the fast at sunset, and a prayer before bed. When fasting Muslims eat during their first prayer and after sunset.

What is Iftar?

Iftar is the evening meal or dinner breaking the fast.

Is fasting a very spiritual experience?

Fasting is absolutely a spiritual experience for some, and for others, it is just a time of year to recognize their faith.

How does it feel to fast for so many days in a row?

Personally, I am hungry and extremely tired by the end of the day, but when the 30 days come to a close, most people have adjusted to the fast.

Do people observing Ramadan only have 1 meal a day or do they squeeze in more meals?

People fasting for Ramadan eat breakfast before the sunrises and pray in the morning and break their fast once it sets, resulting in two meals a day for the month of Ramadan.

Are any exempt from fasting?

There are those exempt from fasting including children who have not yet reached puberty, the elderly, the physically and mentally incapable, pregnant women, travelers, etc. There are ways of making up the fast if you are incapable of fasting: Fidya is payment if you cannot fast and involves donating food or payment in some other form of charity.

How is the period of Ramadan determined on a yearly basis?

The Muslim calendar is determined by the moon, and Ramadan is no different.

Ramadan Observance vs holiday:

Ramadan is an observance followed by Eid Al-Fitr, a celebration and holiday.

How can Muslims and non-Muslims participate?

Don’t eat/drink in front of those who are fasting. If you see a Muslim person eating do not pry; they may have medical or other personal reasons preventing them from fasting

How can non-Muslim people in our community be good neighbors to their Muslim counterparts?

Don’t eat in front of them during Ramadan. If a Muslim friend chooses to break their fast with you please make an effort to eat on time and break the fast with them. If you are so inclined you can even fast with your Muslim peer even if for just a day, it means a lot!

How do those who celebrate Ramadan want others to talk about it respectfully?

Ask questions! Always feel free to ask questions to someone who is fasting, it varies from person to person how they celebrate and their level of knowledge, they may not even know the answer to your question. Don’t hesitate to ask, and respect the observance at the same level you would respect any other religious holiday.

For many of these questions, it is important to remember that Muslims across the world celebrate differently and it largely comes down to personal belief and preference. As the Quran states (2:256): “There is no compulsion in religion.”

Eid Mubarak (Blessed Eid) all!