10 Facts About Ramadan to Share with Your Non-Muslim Friends: Part I

by Helmy Sa'at

Muslims worldwide are counting the days in anticipation of Ramadan. Yearly, most would be familiar with the often repeated questions from their non-Muslim counterparts who are curious about the preamble to Eid. Look no further, here is the first installment of the 2-part series for you to share with your non-Muslim friends about Ramadan:

1. Ramadan is the month whereby the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in 610 CE. During this period, Muslims past the age of puberty abstain from food and water during daylight hours by fasting. As one of the five pillars of Islam, fasting is one of the ways to strengthen connection with Allah and live a life of righteousness. Moreover, as a shared experience, fasting builds solidarity among Muslims while developing empathy towards the needy and poor.

2. Muslims fast from dawn till dusk during Ramadan. Fasting also prohibits smoking and engaging in sexual intercourse. It has many health benefits and one of them being detoxification. Fasting is also not unique to Islam as other religions, such as Judaism, have similar practices.

3. Different parts of the world experience different intervals of sunrise and sunset. Thus, the global ummah experiences fasting in varied conditions depending on where they are located. For instance, in 2021, the Muslim community in Alaska, United States, had to fast for up to 17 and a half hours whereas Muslims in the southernmost countries on the planet, such as Christchurch, New Zealand, only had to fast for 11 hours and 20 minutes! The evening meal after sunset is known as iftar.

4. In daily preparation of fasting, Muslims generally do wake up early in the morning for sahur/suhur, which refers to pre-dawn meal. This light meal before daybreak, albeit not mandatory, would help in sustaining one’s energy throughout the day. 

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5. Dates are a staple in Muslims’ dietary consumption and lifestyle, even more so during Ramadan. Every year, approximately 9 million metric tonnes are produced and the Ajwa date is the most expensive in the market. Besides being nutrition-packed, dates are also believed to be the preferred choice of food to break fast for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

 حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ رَافِعٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّزَّاقِ، أَخْبَرَنَا جَعْفَرُ بْنُ سُلَيْمَانَ، عَنْ ثَابِتٍ، عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ ‏ “‏ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُفْطِرُ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُصَلِّيَ عَلَى رُطَبَاتٍ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ رُطَبَاتٌ فَتُمَيْرَاتٍ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تُمَيْرَاتٌ حَسَا حَسَوَاتٍ مِنْ مَاءٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ غَرِيبٌ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى وَرُوِيَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ يُفْطِرُ فِي الشِّتَاءِ عَلَى تَمَرَاتٍ وَفِي الصَّيْفِ عَلَى الْمَاءِ ‏.‏

Anas bin Malik narrated: “The Messenger of Allah would break the fast with fresh dates before performing Salat. If there were no fresh dates then (he would break the fast) with dried dates, and if there were no dried dates then he would take a few sips of water.”

[Jami` at-Tirmidhi 696]

6. Ramadan is also an opportunity for (more!) sharing. Not just delicacies during iftar, but also knowledge in the effort to strengthen interfaith dialogue. A special time to learn more about and from each other. Asking questions to better understand your Muslim counterparts is always welcome.

7. In Islam, the pathway to God is always open to any individual. Allah is also known as Al-Ghafoor or The Great Forgiver. Fasting is not just about abstaining from food and water. It is also about increasing spirituality in practice that translates into increased frequency in seeking God’s forgiveness. This in addition to learning to forgive others while seeking others’ forgiveness.

8. ‘A’ for appreciation. Hunger and thirst cultivate a deep sense of gratitude for one’s blessed life. The elementary needs associated with food and water put one on the same shared level with others in spite of differences in wealth or status; basic needs remain the same. Such experiences breed compassion for others facing rudimentary deficiencies all year round.

9. Reciting the Quran. 30 days of Ramadan dovetails with 30 sections of the holy book. Muslims would take the opportunity to khatam, i.e. complete reading the Quran. It is an act of getting closer to God. It is completed individually, but could be executed in a group whether with friends or family.

Technology has helped in providing such a strong impetus. One being the Khatam feature of the Muslim Pro app. Users will have the option to use either the app, or read using a physical Quran. They could also invite their friends and families from around the world to read the Quran together while keeping track of each others’ progress.

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10. Last but not least, do not be afraid to wish your Muslim friends the following: Ramadan Mubarak, or Ramadan Kareem, which roughly translates into ‘Have a blessed Ramadan’.

Share this article with your colleagues, friends and family. Then, head over to the comments section below and highlight any other interesting questions or facts about Ramadan. And, look out for the second installment, next week!