Understanding Ramadan – May 6 to June 4

Ramadan has begun for 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, including more than one million Muslims in Canada. But what is Ramadan, exactly? How does it impact people’s daily lives, and how can non-Muslims support them?

Let’s share a few basics.

Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar — a peaceful time of reflection and renewal, marking the time of year when Allah gifted the first verse of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan begins on a different day each year based on the cycles of the moon, and can even differ from place to place!

Ramadan in Canada is from May 6 to June 4, 2019, and many Muslims will participate by carving out more time for prayer, reading the Qur’an, doing charity work and fasting. Many Muslims will avoid eating and drinking — yes, even water — during daylight hours in order to foster a deeper understanding and compassion for those who live with scarcity.

Muslims in the Lower Mainland, for instance, will fast from about 4 am to 8:30 pm this year. They break their fast with a community-oriented meal called iftar after sunset, and another pre-dawn meal, sehar or suhoor, before the sun rises.

Many mosques and community groups will host large iftar dinners where all people can enjoy a meal together.

If you’re non-Muslim and want to support your Muslim friends and co-workers during Ramadan, here are five simple tips:

1. Go about your day as normal. You don’t need to be dramatic about hiding your food away or saying something like, “Oh my gosh, I bet you wish you could eat this right now!” Eat quietly and move on.

2. Be mindful of what you schedule, and when. Fasting for 16+ hours each day can lead to low energy and fatigue. Perhaps save your Zumba invites, lunch meetings and weekend brunches for after Ramadan.

3. Avoid jokes about “losing weight” or “looking tired.” The last thing someone wants to hear when they are fasting for a spiritual reason is “how lucky they are for all the weight they are going to lose.” Calling attention to people’s weight, bodies and visible tiredness is never cool.

4. If you notice someone isn’t fasting, don’t pry! They might be feeling ill, pregnant or exempt from fasting for another reason. That’s their personal business.

5. If you have a good relationship with someone, ask what Ramadan means to them. It’s not up to every Muslim person to educate non-Muslims about their beliefs, but if you have a good, trusting friendship with someone and they enjoy talking about this sort of thing, ask them how their Ramadan is going and why it is important to them. You might even invite them over for a late iftar dinner.

We, at DIVERSEcity, wish everyone a peaceful Ramadan.