We have just entered the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan.
Out of 7 billion people in the world, 1.6 billion of them are Muslims – fasting everyday, for an entire month.
Non-Muslims are usually curious of the rules and uncertain on the behavior that is deemed appropriate and what is not, is there anything you should do to not seem insensitive to your friends who are fasting?
The answer is No.
But, you will be admired and earn cool points if you follow these 10 tips:
1) You can totally eat in front of us….
Don’t stress it, you should carry on business as usual, just ignore our growling stomachs.
2) ….but try not to schedule a work lunch.
Imagine a vegetarian sitting down at an all-meat buffet. If your Muslim co-worker takes a pass, please do understand.
3) You don’t have to fast with us….
You can if you want to know what it feels like. But it won’t hurt our feelings if you don’t, even if we’re best friends.
4) …but you can most definitely join us for Iftar.
Iftar is the breaking of fast at sundown. We like to make it a big, communal meal shared by family and friends. You should come.
5) You don’t have to know when it begins….
Unlike Christmas, where the date is set, we don’t know the exact date Ramadan begins, it changes every year as the Islamic calendar is lunar, so the start date depends on when the new moon is seen.
6) …but please be a little bit flexible.
We determine Ramadan the old-school way – you have to physically see the moon (even though there are apps for that). So if you’re subordinate informs you the day before, try to accommodate.
In Malaysia, it is common practice to allow the fasting community to leave work slightly earlier to make it in time to break fast.
7) We’ll still go for coffee with you
We may not be able to drink anything, not even water, but we will accompany you if you want to take a break.
8) We’ll be keeping our distance
Have you heard of ‘Halitosis’? It happens when you don’t eat or drink anything for an entire day. That’s why we are standing a foot away from you or covering our mouths when we talk.
9) You can wish us ‘Ramadan Mubarak’
It simply means “Happy Ramadan”. Your friends and co-workers will appreciate the thoughtfulness.
10) …but please don’t say “I need to fast too because I need to lose weight.”
Ramadan is not about that. In fact, one of the side effects is obesity; due to all that post-sundown overeating and sleeping after.
There is more to Ramadan than fasting. It isn’t just about abstaining from food and drink, from dawn to dusk.
You also can’t lie or slander someone. You can’t lust after things or a person. We shouldn’t be doing these things anyways but doing them during Ramadan is especially bad because it’s a holy month.
The idea is to use this month to cultivate self-discipline that you will ideally keep practicing the rest of the year. You can think of Ramadan as a spiritual detox. Ramadan Mubarak.