Etiquette: Ramadan Basic Do’s And Don’t’s

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. In order to make this period successful for everyone we reached out to Shakira Ampaire for guidance.

Here are a few questions we find awkward to answer:

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 don’t expect them to know the answers about everything about lslam. Take the information given and the rest begin educating yourself and doing your own research.

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. 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.

Why aren’t you fasting?

This is actually a very invasive question. There are actually a number of reasons Muslims may not be fasting. 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. 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 and probably you weren’t looking to find that out, either. Other reasons may include medical or health conditions, illness, pregnancy, traveling, or age.

‘Oh No, l’m Eating/ drinking -let me hide my food/drink!’

*sigh* Really, it’s okay.

Don’t worry about eating or drinking in front of us, and don’t go to extreme lengths to avoid it. Consideration is appreciated, but part of the fast is the discipline of our abstinence.

Fasting is not solely about abstaining from food and drink, but is more so about reflection, prayer, and connection with God.  Which serves to remind us to reflect and engage spiritually. The experience of fasting also encourages us to give charity. I recommend asking your Muslim friend or colleague what they prefer. Some will appreciate not being around you while you eat, whereas I actually feel less hungry when others around me are eating. Weird, I know, but true.

The point is: Different people have different preferences. We are not a monolith.

You must lose a lot of weight!

Don’t bring up weight loss. Fasting during Ramadan is a faith practice and spiritual experience, not about weight management. This comment once again reduces fasting to being an experience solely around abstaining from food and drink instead of seeing it as a time for personal reflection through this abstinence. So let’s focus on the true purpose, shall we?

 How can l support a fasting person?

Great question. Fasting is an individual experience. The answer won’t be the same across the board. Some things to keep in mind include the following: We may be tired and/or cranky (even hungry) from lack of sleep, food, and water. Try not to take it personally.

Shakira Ampaire is the Deputy Director of Uganda Muslim Women Civilization Initiative (UMWCI)