Ramadan for non-Muslims (with a grain of salt)

Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, begins today. It doesn't help that Ramadan falls during the longest days of the year. Here are some tips on how to help those who are fasting from CBC's Waqas Chughtai based on his own fasting experience.

You're allowed to eat, and we won't get angry. Just leave the fresh cookies at home

"I get really cranky when I'm hungry."

"I could never do that."

"I would die."

For the next 30 days many Muslims in Canada are going to hear those phrases when they tell friends and colleagues they're fasting.

Today marks the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims will refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset.

It doesn't help that Ramadan falls during the longest days of the year. In some parts of Canada the hours between sunrise and sunset are from about 3 a.m. to 9 p.m.

A crescent moon, signifying a new lunar month, is a symbol of Ramadan. This one, with Jupiter on the left, shone over Amman, Jordan in 2008. (Reuters)

That may sound difficult, and there are many challenges. But it's not that bad. In fact, most Muslims actually look forward to it.

So, if you are not fasting, how can you help those who are?

Here are some tips and observations based on my two decades of experience fasting. I can't speak for every Muslim, so take them with a grain of salt — you are allowed to eat, after all.

You can eat

No, really, you can. Trust me.

You don't need to hide or turn around. You don't need to apologize.

You're allowed to eat. It's OK. We get it.We won't get angry, I promise.

Just refrain from bringing in freshly baked cookies. We're human, too.

We can do normal things

While we'd appreciate your not asking us to move heavy boxes, we can do everyday tasks.

Muslims are encouraged to stick to their normal routines while fasting. Just act as you normally do around us.

We likely won't join you for any marathons, though.

Don't gossip

Fasting is not only about not eating; sometimes that is the easiest part.

Muslims are not supposed to talk about others behind their backs. So, if you have juicy gossip ... don't.

How do we not get 'hangry'?

That's angry because we're hungry.

Some of us do, some us don't.

Part of the challenge of fasting is to be patient. It can be hard at times, but it's all part of the experience.

Ramadan, after all, is meant to be a spiritual month.

What is the hardest part?

Personally, it's lack of sleep.

Since fasting hours start so early and end so late, there are few hours to actually get rest.

For instance, nightly prayers don't start until 11 p.m. and don't end till well after midnight. So that can mean going to bed quite late and then getting up before 3 a.m.

Then we eat, and try to go back to bed for two or three hours before waking up again.

Do that for 30 days, and then subtract food, too: That's where the patience part comes in.

Do you stuff yourself when fasting ends?

You can't. In the hour leading up to fast breaks, we may think about all the food we will eat. But when fast does open, you really can't eat much, or you'll be sick.

Remember, you have to eat another full meal in less than six hours.

Finding the right balance can be tricky.

Yes, you can!

The most common comment I hear from people is that they could never fast.

Unless you're unhealthy, yes, you can.

Fasting tests your resolve, and the first few days can be challenging.

But you're stronger than you think. 

Waqas Chughtai is a senior producer of CBC Radio's World Report.


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