9 Ways to Support Your Muslim Friends During Ramadan

  • 6 months   ago
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Dear supportive (non-Muslim) friends, family, and coworkers,

As the holy month of Ramadan falls upon us again, in a time when Islamophobia is on the rise in the most subtle and overt of ways, we know that some of you are working hard to support your Muslim friends and colleagues.




We know that you mean well (or so we assume), but you may not always be having the impact you intend, so here are some Ramadan basics – do’s and don’t’s so that you can truly support those of us fasting during Ramadan!

Please note that this article is written with a ton of sarcasm and sass in hopes of bringing humor to these everyday occurrences and not to vilify anyone’s genuine efforts to support us.

I hope that this article makes you laugh while also encouraging you to think more critically about how you operate in solidarity with Muslims, particularly during the month of Ramadan.

1. ‘So What Is the Significance of Ramadan?’

Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, a time for spiritual connection and engaging more deeply with faith and spirituality through personal reflection, additional prayer, fasting from food and drink between sunrise and sunset, reading of the Qur’an, and increased charity, to name a few.

The actual significance of this month and how one engages with it will vary person to person, as it should – because experiences of faith and spirituality are intensely individualized, even if we engage in religious practices shared by nearly 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.

This variation in practice depends on religious sect, cultural background, geographic region, familial norms, and/or personal preference – and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

If you ask an individual (with whom you have some sort of meaningful relationship) the significance of Ramadan to them, then you’re doing great!

However, if you are asking and expecting a dissertation-level response – or even a response that can be provided by a quick Google search – please remember that not every Muslim knows all the rules of Islam or has answers to your questions about Ramadan.

And they shouldn’t have to.

It’s unfair and can be burdensome to expect any one person to educate you. It can also feel incredibly invalidating and/or painful when a Muslim person doesn’t know the answers to questions about Islam and/or Ramadan – because the questioning sets the expectation that the person should know just because they are Muslim, and that not knowing means the person is not “Muslim enough.”

To begin educating yourself and doing your own research, check out these articles on Vox, The Guardian, FaithStreet, NBC News, and Salon for some great starter resources!

2. ‘You Can’t Eat or Drink All Day? Not Even Water?’

No eating or drinking. No, not even water.

Please, spare us the reaction of extreme shock and disbelief.

When fasting during Ramadan, Muslims don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sundown. Yes, this includes water.

While this may come as a surprise to you, it can be othering for us to experience your reaction of shock and disbelief. It implicitly communicates that you perceive our practice as a deviation from some norm (probably Christian hegemony).

Islam is a religion of 1.57 billion followers, many of whom fast during Ramadan, so this practice is pretty normal for approximately a quarter of the world’s population.

Take in the new information, but try not to dramatize this norm of ours. This is our religious/spiritual practice, not asceticism nor exceptionalism.

Though you may be trying to convey admiration or awe, it can be awkward when we’re simply practicing our religion.

Learn more about Christian hegemony here.

3. ‘Why Aren’t You Fasting?’

This is actually a pretty invasive question.

There are actually a number of reasons Muslims may not be fasting. Some may be premised in the faith tradition, and others may be entirely personal. Either way, an individual’s reasoning for not fasting is not for public consumption unless they choose to share that information.

If you ask someone if they are or aren’t fasting, let them respond – and don’t probe further unless they offer additional information. It can seem judgmental of their religious practice (or lack thereof) if they’re simply choosing not to fast. In addition, you can create awkward situations for both that person and yourself.

One of those awkward situations is when someone discloses that they’re on their period and that’s why they’re not fasting. Many of us don’t want to share our menstrual cycles with you – and many of you probably weren’t looking to find that out, either.

Other reasons may include medical or health conditions – whether formally diagnosed or not, illness, pregnancy, traveling, or age. This link has some examples of exemption from fasting within Islam, but these beliefs vary according to sect and individual practice.

(Please note that the link describes pregnancy and menstruation as being of a woman’s experience, but we know that folks of many and all gender identities and expressions experience pregnancy and menstruation.)

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Source: everydayfeminism

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