Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims around the world fast from dawn to sunset. I have been fasting during the month of Ramadan every year since I was about eight-years-old and the experience has been changing for me in many ways, teaching me a lot about discipline, and what it means to be less fortunate.
As I've grown up, The Islamic calendar is based on cycles of the lunar phases, meaning that the days during Ramadan have been getting longer over the years. Something that has stayed the same however, is the common reaction that I often get from non-Muslim friends and colleagues. Here are six of them:
1. 'So you don't eat or drink anything at all for 30 days?!'
You really think that's what I'm doing? I am pretty sure I would die if I tried that.
2. 'Is it ok to eat in front of you?'
Of course it is. One of the main principles of fasting is discipline and I would prefer if you just spent your day normally and didn’t worry about me. I can handle some crisps being eaten near me but I think everyone else here hates you because they stink.
3. 'Why do you do it to yourself? Isn’t it bad for you?'
Why do you have to talk about it so negatively? I’m not punishing myself and this isn't a burden. Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims that a lot of us look forward to. There are certainly times when it can be difficult but it only lasts a month and it reminds us how people less fortunate than us have to live.
Fasting is only considered obligatory for adults that can fast. You don’t have to fast if you have any health issues that could be affected. We may be losing a few meals every day but the aim is to change our entire lifestyle positively allowing us to feel that we are gaining a lot spiritually throughout the month. You should try it!
4. 'Must be a great way to get in shape!'
Yes, there is plenty of evidence around to support the many health benefits of fasting, including improving brain function, improving your immune system, normalising insulin sensitivity, helping to cure addiction and helping weight loss. We also eat a lot of dates during this month which are very good for you.
However, we tend to cancel a lot of this out because as soon as the sun begins to set and we hear the call to prayer begin, we are likely to eat as many delicious fried foods as possible and continue to snack at every possible opportunity until the following sunrise. That may just be my routine though.
5. 'Eat some of this, no one will know'
You have completely missed the point. Please, get away from me.
Ramadan is not just about avoiding food or drink. We use the month to learn self-discipline, try to become spiritually stronger, Appreciate God's gifts to us and how fortunate we are, Reflect on the value of charity and generosity and give thanks for the Quran which was first revealed in the month of Ramadan.
6. 'You must be really hungry!'
I was doing fine until you mentioned it, thanks.
If you know someone fasting during Ramadan, please, just act normal. If you still find the entire concept too difficult to comprehend, remember that it only lasts about a month and at the end we get to celebrate Eid al- Fitr. This is like Christmas but much better, so really don't worry: we've got this.
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