12 Things Non-Muslims Always Wondered About Ramadan But Never Dared To Ask


Nur Adawiyati •  May 16, 2018

Ramadan is a special month for Muslims all around the world. There’s a reason why we look forward to it! During this holy month, everyone aims to improve their relationship with our Creator and tries to be a better Muslim in general. We must remember that no matter how tough these fasts get, we’re ultimately fasting for a Greater Purpose. We’re taught to not give in to our desires and do all the things that will bring us closer to Him, especially during Ramadan.

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I was fortunate enough to have welcomed Ramadan last year abroad while living with a European family. Despite being unable to hear the call to Maghrib prayers, every night I ensured that I broke my fast on time! In some instances, one of the German guys I lived with would climb onto the roof to check if the sun has fully set! I was touched by their understanding as well as their curiosity regarding Ramadan. It was then when I answered a lot of rather peculiar questions about this holy month and I’m sure you’ve had your fair share too. Here’s a short compilation of those questions - but before we start, we want to share something exciting!

1. Rather than fasting during the day, can’t you choose to fast at night?

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Fasting has been prescribed for us and those before us. It’s been written for us to fast from dawn to dusk. Fasting in the day can be challenging but at the same time, it teaches us how to be steadfast in our deen. It will be a struggle for reverts or even those who just began their full-day fasts. The determination and ease to complete 30 days of fasting come with practice! With time, it gets better ?

2. Can non-Muslims wish 'Ramadan Mubarak' to their Muslim friends?

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Yes, you can! Ramadan Mubarak, which is translated to 'Happy Ramadan' and 'Blessed Ramadan', is a greeting that's widely exchanged during the holy month - and you can say it too. Alternatively, you can also wish your Muslim friends, 'Happy Ramadan' or 'Have a blessed Ramadan'. We generally use this greeting at the start of the Ramadan month, but you can exchange this greeting with your Muslim friends any day during the month of Ramadan.

3. If you need to abstain from food and drinks, is swallowing saliva considered drinking?

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Think of it this way, when you fast you’re bound to feel hungry and thirsty. Even if you drink a cup full of saliva you won’t be able to quench your thirst. So, the simple answer to this question is nope! Swallowing your saliva isn’t drinking. You’ll be able to “drink” it as much as you want and still feel thirsty.

4. Don’t you feel hungry or thirsty?

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Yes, we do! But the only difference is, that we’re not giving in to our desires. Despite our hunger and thirst, we’re doing it for a greater purpose! It’s a different kind of satisfaction once you’ve completed this month-long challenge, which is why we're rewarded with Eid! (aka Hari Raya!)

5. Can you go swimming during Ramadan?

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Swimming in Ramadan is generally not encouraged, even though it's permissible. That's because we'd want to prevent water from entering our body through various means (mouth, nose, ears, etc.). But of course, under special circumstances like if you're a professional swimmer and will need to swim daily, you can go ahead and jump right in!

6. If you can’t swim, what about taking a shower?

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Cleanliness plays a vital part in our deen and plus, it’s unhygienic to not shower especially when you're living in a country as humid as this. Showering will not only allow you to cleanse yourself but you’re able to cool yourself down after a humid day. That's a win-win situation! Just remember not to sneak a sip (or accidentally gulp!) a handful of tap water. (Flashback to our primary school days. We’ve all accidentally swallowed some, haven’t we? ?)

7. Do you have to repay the days you’ve missed before or after Ramadan?

For a start, we will have to pay back our missed days of fasting. An example: maybe you’ve missed 2 days last year during Ramadan because you were under the weather. Fret not, the solution is straightforward! ? Just fast for 2 days before the next Ramadan comes. If for whatever reason you’re still unable to repay the fast, you can postpone it to the year after, and in addition to that, you’ll have to pay in monetary terms in the form of zakat.

8. Can you look at the food?

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Yes, we can! But most of the time we wouldn't! It’s hard enough to walk past McDonald’s and smell their fries but not be able to eat them. Do you know what’s worse? Having to smell your mum cooking your favourite dish and it’s only 5 PM.

9. Do you stay up all night to catch up on eating?

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Not really. During the fasting month, we’re encouraged to limit our eating not only during the day but also throughout the night. We’re encouraged to increase our worship, especially throughout the night. You might see Muslims doing congregational prayers (or Jemaah prayers) at void decks, fields and even in some multi-storey carparks. Think of it this way, food provides you with short-term satisfaction (feeling full throughout the night). Worshipping our Creator provides us with long-term satisfaction (collating rewards for the hereafter)❤️

10. Do you mind if people eat in front of you?

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I’m sure I‘m not just speaking for myself when I say yeah, go right ahead! I find it really endearing when non-Muslims ask that. It might be at lunchtime and you need to hold a group discussion or something along those lines. Just continue having your lunch! However, this might differ with each Muslim out there, so just ask whether they’re fine with you eating in their presence. I’m sure many wouldn’t mind!

11. What if you drink or eat by accident?

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This is something that we might have done or we'd know someone who has done it. Thankfully, if you eat or drink by accident it doesn’t nullify your entire day of fasting. Just ensure that the eating or drinking is 100% unintentional and you’re good to continue fasting.

12. Why do Muslims even fast?

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Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam (which also includes performing prayers and giving to charity). It's compulsory for Muslims to observe it during the holy month of Ramadan. For us, Ramadan is that time of the year where we face this challenge alongside our family and friends, and it's truly humbling ❤️ Whether you're rich or poor, this experience teaches you empathy, compassion and patience and encourages you to help others who are less fortunate.

Hopefully, some of your or your friend's queries have been answered! The list of rather curious questions never seems to end, especially during Ramadan. Other than focusing on our fasts, I'm sure we all have various priorities we'll need to allocate time for. With proper time management and self-discipline, we will be able to overcome all these hurdles with ease during the fasting month insyaAllah.  May it be a blessed Ramadan for us! ✨