Here is a short guide for those who are not Muslim to understand this holiday and how to be a good neighbor to Muslim friends during this Ramadan season.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims. During the month of Ramadan, healthy Muslims around the world are required to fast from dawn till dusk. During Ramadan, Muslims are supposed to build a stronger relationship with God, being grateful to Him and becoming better Muslims. After the fast is broken every night at sunset, Muslims usually attend the night prayer at the masjid (mosque) and pray in congregation. The Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohamed during the night which is known as Layltul Qadr (the night of power), in the month of Ramadan.
“It was in the month of Ramadan that the Quran was revealed as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong. So any one of you who is present that month should fast, and anyone who is ill or on a journey should make up for the lost days by fasting on other days later. God wants ease for you, not hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful.” (Quran 2:185)
When is Ramadan celebrated?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Lunar calendar, therefore Ramadan comes earlier by about 11 days every year.
What greetings can I use?
The 2 most common greetings are “Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan)!” or “Ramadan Kareem (Generous Ramadan)!”
How can I be a good neighbor during Ramadan?
There are a number of things that can be done to be a good neighbor to your Muslim friends during the month of Ramadan.
It is kind to bring a gift to your neighbors during Ramadan. This can be a home-baked gift like cookies, a cake, or some other item that you like to prepare. Please make sure to avoid alcohol and animal by-products (dairy is fine).
When you offer a gift of some sort to your Muslim neighbor during Ramadan, it is a good time to offer the gift in person, and have a conversation about their celebration of Ramadan, and it is a good opportunity for you to share with them about particular holidays and traditions that are important to you from your own religious tradition.
The day after Ramadan ends, Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr (the festival of the breaking of the fast). This is a day to dress up with new clothes, enjoy community prayers, visit family and friends and enjoy good food. Muslims do not fast on this day.
Can they drink water while fasting?
No. Muslims can not eat, drink, participate in marital relations, conduct immoral acts or get angry from sunrise to sunset.
Should I avoid eating in front of someone who is fasting?
It would be courteous and greatly appreciated if you avoid eating in front of someone who is fasting.
What should I expect from my Muslim co-workers or students who are fasting?
It would be a good idea to give big projects ahead of time or after Ramadan. If possible, allow them to come to work a few hours later because Muslims wake up before sunrise to eat and pray.
Students could be given an alternate place during lunch, like the library to avoid watching others eat while they are fasting. Be patient with them if they aren’t their energetic self. Fasting is difficult and it slows people down.
I notice some Muslims don’t fast during Ramadan.Why is that?
Fasting is mandatory for healthy Muslims. Muslims who are sick are not required to fast but have to either make up the days at a later time and if they can’t, they are required to pay to feed a certain amount of poor people for every missed fasting day. Women on their menstrual cycle are not required to fast on those days, but they are required to make up the missed days at another time.
What do Muslims eat when they break their fast at sunset?
Muslims should eat healthy foods after breaking fast and drink plenty of water. The point is to avoid overeating during the night hours.
Can I give a gift during Eid-ul-Fitr?
Yes, you can definitely give a Muslim a gift during Eid as long as it doesn’t contain alcohol or animal by-products (dairy is fine). You can greet Muslims with “Eid Mubarak (Blessed Festival)!” or “Eid Kareem (Generous Festival)!”