With the holy month of Ramadan in full swing, many Muslims have begun their daily fasting, which occurs from sunrise to sundown. Across Canada, that can be anywhere from 16 hours (Toronto)  to as much as 20.5 hours (Yellowknife)  where devout Muslims will not eat or drink each day.
Perhaps you have friends, colleagues or acquaintances who’ve always been curious about why you fast, or they’ve felt guilty about eating around you. I know when I married my husband four years ago and learned about the religion (I’m Hindu by birth), these were some of my curiosities.
Here are a few things that I learned early on, which you can share with your non-Muslim friends.
1. Explain why you fast. The reason you fast is two-fold: to demonstrate the highest level of submission to God, as stated in the Qur’an; and to remind yourself of those less fortunate. In fact, charity is a big element of Ramadan and many Muslims give even more to various causes during this month. Another tidbit I learned is that some people who fast actually gain weight during this month; it’s all that late-night binge eating that’s followed directly by sleeping. So if your non-Muslim friends think they might lose weight by fasting, they will be in for an unpleasant surprise.
2. Say it’s okay to eat in front of you. Explain that even though you’re fasting, you will not judge them. The belief is that since you refrain from eating while they do, it further shows your dedication to God.
3. Explain that it would be nice if they wished you a Ramadan Mubarak. Just like many Canadians, Christian or not, wish others a Merry Christmas, it’s okay to wish Muslims a Ramadan Mubarak (which means a blessed Ramadan). You can say that you’ll be touched at their thoughtfulness.
3. If possible, ask them to schedule plans in the evening. Refraining from eating all day can make you tired. So if they’re planning an outing with you, ask them to plan something after sunset. Or better yet, make it a buffet dinner right around the time your fast opens. Just remind them, no restaurants where they only serve pork, as that’s considered haram (forbidden by Islam).
4. Explain your prayer schedule. You can explain that there are five formal prayer times in Islam each day. These are: Fajr (pre-dawn); Dhuhr (noon); ‘Asr (afternoon); Maghrib (sunset); and ‘Isha (evening). During Ramadan, many Muslims will observe as many, if not all, of those times. So tell them not to be surprised if you excuse yourself to pray. And that they’re welcome to join you if they like.
5. If you invite them to an Iftar party, you can say they’re welcome to bring a dish. Tell them that Iftar is the term given to the meal that you eat when you open fast after sunset. Typical dishes can range from samosas, dahi barde fruit chaat, daal and chole to various meat curries, biryani and kabobs served with naan. You can say you’d be pleased if they joined in the festivities, and even more so if they brought one of the traditional foods.
Written By: Masala Mommas