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Topics: Spirituality | Religion

How to support your Muslim friends during Ramadan

No, you really don't need to hide your lunch

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Ramadan is a month in which almost 1.8 billion people around the world abstain from pleasures and prioritize their relationship with God. Muslims observe this holy month to mark the descending of the first chapters of the Quran on Prophet Mohammed. It is also a time when families and communities come together in prayer, recite the Quran and strive to be more charitable.

We also fast from sun up to sun down. As a kid, the month was all about sleeping all day and staying up late at night. (Before sunrise, my sisters and I would empty out my mother’s hidden candy stash.) But recently, I’ve been more diligent with making goals to be a better person. With distractions like eating and drinking out of the way, it gives me time to reflect on the choices I make and how they impact the people around me.

I was raised in Pakistan, a majority-Muslim country. So Ramadan was the norm and questions about how to navigate it never came up. Schools and offices offered half days, cafeterias and snack bars would be closed, and the nights would be full of street foods so we could have suhoor (the last meal before starting your fast).

Here in Canada, it’s so satisfying to see the support and interest from the community during Ramadan. I realize people mean well when they ask questions or comment on my fasting, but sometimes even the best of intentions fall short.

With Ramadan running from May 5 to June 4, I thought I’d offer some dos and don’ts for supporting the Muslims around you.

Educate yourself

Between work, errands and family, fasting leaves little time (or patience!) for lengthy explanations. Sure, be curious and ask questions, but please don’t expect a detailed summary of the whys and hows of Islam. Just like Christians, not all Muslims practice their faith in the same manner or know everything about Islam. It might be taxing for some people to find themselves without an answer to in-depth questions and be made to feel “not Muslim enough.”

Don’t be shocked when people don’t eat or drink

Yes, not even water. Disbelief or pity triggers the notion that practicing a religion other than the norm of Christianity is absurd and unrealistic.

Please don’t ask why someone isn’t fasting

There are a handful of reasons for someone not to fast, ranging from health conditions to menstruation. And some folks may not want those reasons as public knowledge. If you ask someone if they’re fasting, just take their answer at face value and don’t follow up with the awkward “Why?” (You might not want to know the answer, either!)

You really don’t need to hide your food

Honestly, this is such a kind gesture, but it’s unnecessary. So, please don’t spoil your new blazer by hiding a well-dressed salad (true story). Ramadan is about fighting temptation internally (thinking bad thoughts or wishing evil onto others) and externally (avoiding luxury and abundance). Integrating fasting into everyday life where food exists is part of the deal.

Accommodate prayer times, if you can

Most Muslims offer prayers multiple times during the day with each one taking less than 10 minutes. If your Muslim employees aren’t taking their lunchtime to eat during Ramadan, try to move their break to when they’d like to pray instead.

Host an iftar

Iftar is the name of the meal with which Muslims break their fast at sunset. Sure Ramadan is about faith but family and community are also interwoven. You can be part of it by hosting an iftar. Just think of it as inviting your friends for dinner. And be sure to serve a couple of dates with the meal — Muslims break their fast with one or two of the sweet snacks before dinner. Looking forward to iftar with the people you care about, Muslims or not, makes the long days feel worth it.

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Zahra Khozema was Broadview's summer digital intern.

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