13 Muslims From Around The World Share Their Ramadan Stories


Faruq Senin •  May 28, 2019

If you've been following us on Facebook, we're sure you've been seeing our different articles on Ramadan Around The World. It's really interesting to learn about different cultures in Islam and even more so in Ramadan, as you can see how different countries celebrate Ramadan differently. Whether it's the food we consume or the traditions we do in Ramadan, it truly shows us the wealth of diversity in Islam. It's also beautiful to see how Islam unites all Muslims around the world.

As Ramadan is coming to an end soon, here's a round-up of 13 stories from Muslims all over the world. Read on as they share how they celebrate Ramadan, the challenges they face and the community they live in.

1. Tokyo: A Singaporean Revert's Journey Living In Japan

Singaporean Chinese-Muslim revert Meryem currently resides in Tokyo and she tells us how it's been like for her to celebrate Ramadan in Japan.

Credit: Tokyo Camii on Facebook

"Ramadan in Japan is pretty much non-existent unless you’re at the mosque or at a gathering with your Muslim community - we don’t exactly feel much atmosphere here since there are only about 100,000 Muslims in Japan and are scattered out. But some of the local mosques here (Tokyo Camii, for example) serves free iftars daily for the Muslims and extend the invitation to non-Muslim Japanese, so it is very common to find Muslims and non-Muslim Japanese people sharing a table in the mosque for our daily Iftar ? It is a very heartwarming scene, to be honest!"

We also managed to ask her a few questions about her journey as a revert and how it has improved for her over the years.

Credit: @immeryem on Instagram

"During my first Ramadan, I expected myself to “read the Quran from back to back”. I fondly remember myself repeatedly listening to (and first loving) Surah Al-Qadr during the night where I first heard to be the night of Lailatul Qadr. I bought dates, and made myself drink water first instead of immediately digging into my iftar, because I had learnt that it was sunnah. I joined Tarawih at the mosque just opposite my house (what a blessing, Alhamdulillah!), mostly alone, and I got confused because I couldn’t count properly and thought we ended Tarawih with 13 raka’ats. I didn’t understand what people were reciting in between, and at the end, I was really quite frustrated.

Now I try to also focus on improving myself in terms of akhlaq which I sometimes severely lack – and also because I have a responsibility over my child now there is an added challenge of meeting my ibadah during this month. But I am also comforted by the fact that by struggling, every form is an act of duty as a mother and having to take care of her daughter also counts, InshaAllah, and I pray Allah sees my struggle."

Read more about Meryem's experience celebrating Ramadan in Japan here!

2. New Zealand: Standing Strong After The Christchurch Tragedy

Ramadan in New Zealand is a little different this year, as it's still coping with the aftermath of the Christchurch attack which killed more than 50 Muslims during Friday prayers. But our talk with Bilal Slaimankhel, one of Auckland's mosque committee members, showed that there is an outpour of hope, strength and solidarity - both between Muslims and non-Muslims - after the tragedy.

"During Ramadan, we usually organise many activities at different mosques and places where we have open iftar days every day for Muslims and non-Muslims to join. Men would eat together and women would gather together. At the same time, the police force sergeants and constables would join us as well. A lot of non-Muslims in New Zealand understand what fasting is, and they’re interested to know more."

"It hasn’t been much different since the Christchurch tragedy. The only difference is there are more people coming to the masjid attending prayers, Alhamdulillah. We organise daily iftar nights for the public where it’s open for non-Muslims to join us. The interaction between Muslim and non-Muslims has been amazing. There are many different faiths coming together and talking to each other. It has been awesome sharing different things and talking about life has been amazing. The future looks great.

There are also church groups showing their support and offering any sort of help that can be any use of us. In general, support from other communities has been wonderful. Some people are still scared, but everyone is in high spirit and living their normal life. Everyone is happy and Ramadan is a month of reflection. To become closer to Allah SWT, more people are coming to the mosque and attend prayers too. All we have seen is positivity coming out from the tragedy apart from what happened that day."

Read more about the Ramadan experience in New Zealand here!

3. Seoul: A South African's experience adjusting to Ramadan in Korea

Our writer Hashim moved from South Africa to Seoul years ago and although it was an exciting experience living away from home, the struggles kicked in when Ramadan came.

"Korea gave me so much but also took one of the dearest parts of me away. It was at that moment, I realized that Ramadaan is fasting and prayer, yes, but it is also way more. It’s a gift, a time when everything and everyone comes together. It’s about family and friends bonding, rejoicing in the glory of our creator and the gift of Ramadaan."

Credit: @capetownhalaal on Instagram

"In South Africa, the Muslim community is really tight-knit - finding food and a mosque is as easy as breathing. McDonald’s, KFC and Nando’s are mostly or all halal. For us as South Africans, all our faiths are protected by our constitution and the beauty of it is that all faiths seem to live alongside each other in relative peace.

The road I lived in, in Cape Town, has a church, a temple, and a mosque. The call to prayer can be heard for every prayer time and the walk down to the mosque with my dad is one I cherished. Muslims are also a minority in Korea but here it can be felt in many aspects of life and it’s glaringly obvious in Ramadan. I live 3 hours south of Seoul and finding halal food isn’t easy unless I go to areas like Itaewon which has loads of food options and a mosque. No major fast-food chain is halal and if I do decide to eat there fries or shrimp burgers are my only options."

Credit: @ahmad.cho on Instagram

"I was the only Muslim in my town of Hamyang and it has still been a wonderful experience. Ramadan, however, was truly a lonely existence outside the major cities. I had to wake up for suhoor, eat and make Fajr all alone. Coming home from work and breaking my fast was pretty much a quick meal and evening prayers. There is no mosque, no community and there’s definitely no Ramadan spirit."

Read more about Hashim's Ramadan experience in Seoul here!

4. Dubai: Where Work Ends At 2pm

For Muslim-majority Dubai, Ramadan becomes more of a cultural event as the whole city changes its schedule so everyone can engage more in spiritual activities and have time for family. We spoke to Ruqaya Al Hamiri from the Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding and she tells us more about the local customs.

"During Ramadan, Dubai changes so much! Everyone can’t wait until Ramadan starts, not only for its religious importance but for what also comes along as well from cultural habits. During Ramadan, the working day is shorter (working hours are shortened by 2 hours, and for public sector workers, working hours from 9am to 2pm!) so it means you get to enjoy Ramadan and indulge yourself in spiritual activities, like reading the Quran."

Credit: The Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding on Facebook

"Culturally, many of us would spend Ramadan in family iftars, staying up late until Suhoor time which could mean staying up until 5 am! As well, I can’t deny that many people spend the month watching Ramadan series on TV (these are TV programs and shows that are made specially to air during Ramadan) too. One of the wonderful things that happen in Ramadan is the Taraweeh prayers in every mosque, where you get to focus on the spiritual side of Ramadan too. I think what makes Ramadan different here too is the fact that the people of Emirates are used to sending food over to neighbours as well to the local mosque to help break other people’s iftar."

Credit: Islamic Community on Facebook

"For the past decade, Ramadan has fallen on the hotter months of the year, and that meant it was quite hot and tiring. The Government of the UAE had put in place a rule for all establishments to have fewer working hours during the day for everyone to help those fasting during the holy months. And for the past several years Ramadan fell on during the summer break for schools which meant a lot of people would take their leaves on Ramadan to enjoy it with their whole family."

Read more about Ramadan in Dubai here!

5. London: A Japanese Revert’s Experience Fasting And Celebrating Eid In The UK

It's not everyday that you hear stories from a Japanese-Muslim revert and it's even harder to find one in London. Arisa Maryam currently lives in London and she tells us about the vibrant Ramadan atmosphere especially with its large Muslim population.

"Alhamdulillah, London has a large Muslim population and wherever you go, you will usually find Muslims and halal restaurants. Even in the supermarkets, they will have a section for Ramadan selling Halal food, dates and etc. There are also numerous mosques where you can have iftar and pray tarawih and this is the time of year when they are most active and busy. There is a very good get-together socially and there's a spiritual feeling during Ramadan with many families and friends having iftar together."

"Currently, Ramadan is closer to the UK summer so fasting hours are long. Fasting during the middle of the summer in the UK can last for about 19 hours, which is roughly from 2:30 to 21:30. This feels a lot like a marathon, with the final 3-4 hours being particularly challenging. With regards to the weather, this is the UK; you never know what you’re going to get – sunny one day and raining the next.

There are many iftar events in London. Most mosques will have at least dates and other fruits with some snacks for iftar, but others will also provide whole meals. There is much going on in terms of community activities, especially on the weekends, with extra Islamic talks and halaqas throughout Ramadan."

We also asked her how Ramadan has changed for her ever since reverting to Islam and she tells us how her family has joined in with Ramadan and Eid festivities.

"Ramadan is not only my event anymore. I don’t have any problems in terms of fasting with my family now. Alhamdulillah. My mother also joined an iftar dinner at a mosque in Tokyo when I was there and because of this event, she allowed me to wear hijab. I often went to my grandparents’ house with my mother and sister and we had iftar together, although I was the only one who fasted. So, I can say that Ramadan changed my family and improved our relationships over the years. Now, my family and I are talking about celebrating Eid parties together as a family when I move back to Japan. InshaAllah!"

Read more about Arisa's Ramadan experience in London here!

6. Paris: A Singaporean Muslim’s Struggles And Dealing With Faith

Having moved from Singapore to Paris more than 2 years ago, Shirin Chua had to adjust to celebrating Ramadan in Paris. It wasn't just the longer hours of fasting that she had to adapt to but not having any family together with her also meant that most iftar and sahur are spent by herself, a far cry from the Ramadan atmosphere in Singapore.

"I’ve only ever experienced Ramadan in Paris in the summer, so the hours are long. At the moment they last from approximately 4am to 9.30pm. Last year they lasted around 3.30am to 10pm."

"Before my first Ramadan here, I was worried about whether I could physically withstand fasting such long hours. By God’s grace, it has turned out fine. I don’t really notice hunger or thirst and I miraculously detox from coffee (when I otherwise have 6 espressos a day ?).

But the huge challenge is perpetual sleep deprivation/exhaustion. You break your fast at 9.30pm/10pm, Isha is at 11pm or later, then it’s midnight/1am by the time you fall asleep, you wake up at 3/3.30am again for sahur, and you may or may not have enough time to sleep a little again before work. So you’re perpetually exhausted.

And what’s more, unless you live with a Muslim family, this means you rarely eat a meal with another human being. So it can get socially very isolating. It’s very different from the community spirit and camaraderie that is a central part of Ramadan in Singapore. But ultimately, I think experiencing Ramadan away from home is a great experience despite its challenges. It makes you confront and realise what part of your religion is really YOU, taken out of your natural habitat and religious community ?"

Read more about Shirin's Ramadan experience in Paris here!

7. Morocco: Where The Markets Are Empty During Sunset

Moroccan local and one of our HHWT readers Sara Maourouri comes from Rabat, Morocco and she tells us more about the local culture and traditions in her hometown during Ramadan.

"It feels like every day, only that everyone is fasting, and restaurants and coffee shops are closed. Besides, the office hours change and are shortened (for public sector it's from 9am to 3pm). The markets can be busy during the day. Locals shop in markets in the rest of the year, but unfortunately, during Ramadan, a large population focuses on grocery shopping and what to make for iftar. But as soon as the Maghrib approaches, the people start going back home and the streets are empty by the time the sun has set."

"This time of the year, Fajr is around 3.45am so we wake up at around 3 – 3.15am, while Iftar comes at around 7.20 pm. In winter, the days are definitely shorter. Meanwhile, in summer it’s long days and short nights. Fasting can appear easier in winter than summer. Summer in Morocco can vary depending on the region, it’s generally hot but hotter and drier in the south. Up north, the temperature is more clement, and with the closeness to the sea, the weather is on the humid side. This year’s Ramadan is between spring and summer and so far we’ve been blessed with good weather, except for the heat wave on some weekends."

"In my family we break fast according to sunnah, we drink water and eat 3 dates. We pray and afterwards we have vegetable soup or Harira, Morocco’s most famous dish in Ramadan. Some eat it with Chebakia, a sweet delicacy made with almond and honey. We then have a freshly made fruit juice, boiled eggs and what we call mkhamer, or batbout, depending on the region. It’s actually a pita-like soft and chewy Moroccan bread which has a pocket, and can flavour it with different sorts of fillings. For iftar, we have oats porridge with fruits, dates and nuts."

Read more about the Ramadan experience in Morocco here!

8. New York: Where Diversity Comes Together For Ramadan And Eid

New York isn't a place that you'd think of when it comes to Ramadan but due to its cosmopolitan society, you can find many small Muslim communities such as the Bangladeshi community. Our contributor, Amina Khan, tells us how vibrant the Ramadan celebration in her community is.

"Ramadan in NYC is basically a full month of Iftar parties. Whether it’s family; community; interfaith; or Masjid Iftars… I absolutely love them all! A typical day for us in Ramadan would be rushing from work to get home; freshen up and attend an Iftar party; then rushing from the Iftar party to go to the Taraweeh with my parents and if it’s the weekend we go partying hardcore till Tahajjud (and by partying I mean getting Burgers at Steinway street ? )."

We fast about 16 hrs in New York, and the past few Ramadans were right in the middle of super humid and hot NYC summer but subhanAllah somehow every Ramadan it rains a lot! Which makes it easier for us to keep our fasts and this current Ramadan has been really cool and nice Alhamdulillah with only a few really hot days and even those weren’t so bad."

"As I moved here from Bangladesh when I was younger, Ramadan in the States and Bangladesh is very different. In Bangladesh, most schools were closed during Ramadan and work ended early for most people as well. This was a blessing I only realized after moving the States where we don’t really have any days off during Ramadan. As a kid, I remember basically sleeping all day and then waking up early afternoon and wait for Iftar. Everyday Iftar was made at home from scratch and after Iftar, we would all go to Taraweeh just like we do in NYC but everything was just a little more laid back in Bangladesh. Somedays I would go out with my Mom before some special Iftar foods from outside - the streets were filled with food! I mean at every corner there was a guy frying something yummy. We do have restaurants nearby my current home in NYC that serve Bengali Iftars but it could never compare to those street goodies."

Read more about how Amina's lively Bangladeshi community celebrates Ramadan in New York!

9. Canada: A Muslim Revert Shares Her Experience On Motherhood And Islam

With a non-Muslim-majority country like Canada, it's hard for local Muslim reverts to find a community and even more so during Ramadan. Rebecca Khan shares with us her inspiring journey during Ramadan and experience as a mother, wife and as a new Muslim in Canada.

"I converted to Islam in 2014, so my very first Ramadan was in the middle of the summer. The hours were long then, and still in 2019 we fast from about 3:30 AM to 8:30 PM. It can be a major struggle, particularly for those who have regular work hours, as you don’t get much sleep at night either! Because Canada is predominantly non-Muslim, there isn’t much of a festive atmosphere unless you are at the masjid in the evenings. It’s business-as-usual for most of us, going about our normal days. My biggest struggle these past few years is that I have not been able to fast due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and now another pregnancy. I have to find ways to make the month spiritually beneficial, all while taking care of my toddler son, working, etc. "

"Almost every mosque in my city offers free iftar daily. There are also so many mosques and organizations that do community outreach during Ramadan – organizing interfaith iftars, meals for the homeless, events for converts, etc. There are also different bazaars where local businesses get together to sell clothing, Ramadan/Eid decor, and food. And, of course, there are special spiritual gatherings during the month where scholars and community leaders speak."

"For iftar and sahur, we eat very normal “Canadian food” – which is actually a mix of food from around the world. I always rotate between meat, fish and vegetarian/vegan. We eat healthily year-round but make sure to eat extra well during Ramadan to fuel our bodies. A few examples of meals: coconut lentil curry, roasted chicken and vegetables, honey-soy salmon bowls with quinoa, beef stew, pasta, lots of big salads… Before our main meal, we break our fast with dates, milk and fruit. For suhoor, it’s usually eggs, oatmeal with seeds (like hemp, chia), and fruit. We don’t eat many desserts, but I did do some cookie baking and decorating this year!"

Read more about Rebecca's struggles and how Ramadan has improved for her since she reverted to Islam!

10. Ireland: A Malaysian Muslim Finds Home Away From Home

Living in a small town in Ireland, Malaysian Najwa Salim has had to adapt to longer hours of fasting as compared to her home country. While it's difficult not having a huge Muslim community, she has managed to find comfort from a small community there.

"In the early Ramadan, the fasting period starts at 4am and ends at 9.06pm. Towards the end, it gets from 3.40 am to 9.50pm. Alhamdulillah, the weather in Ireland really helps me go through the day with ease. The weather is nice and mild, with temperatures around 8-18 degrees, I don’t really feel as thirsty or hungry as I was in Malaysia due to this chill weather. During Ramadan, Tarawih sessions are held at the Dublin Mosque. Although it starts late at around 10.30pm and finishes at 12am, the mosque is full. And it feels as though you're in Mecca with other Muslims from different backgrounds coming for the prayers."

"There are around 3 Malay-Muslim families in town and we occasionally meet for iftar sessions. Dublin (capital of Ireland) is one hour away from where I live. In Dublin, there are around 3-4 big mosques with loads of activities held during the year, especially in the month of Ramadan as there are bigger Muslim communities in Dublin. So they have charity iftar dinners, fundraisers, Muslim kids summer camp plus there are a lot more choices for halal food in Dublin as compared to where I live."

"In Dublin, the Malaysian community is active too. They often organise food bazaars and gatherings before Ramadan. As for my part, I’d sometimes host iftar dinners or get-together with friends."

Read more about Najwa's challenges on experiencing Ramadan in Ireland and how she overcomes it!

11. Melbourne: Living Far Away From Family

Family is one of the most important sources of strength in Ramadan but Malaysian Nabila Norsofiena, has to spend Ramadan away from her family. Currently working and spending her Ramadan in Melbourne, she tells us how she's had to face the bitterly cold weather and how she misses the lively Ramadan bazaars back home.

"This was my first Ramadan away from my family. It was a journey about learning how to be independent, be on my own as well as be a great cook when you miss food from home! My go-to ingredient is ikan bilis! As well as brussels sprouts and not forgetting, bird’s eye chilli.

The hours are definitely shorter which I had underestimated. The first Ramadan in Melbourne was about adapting to winter, as fast as sunset would come. It also meant that it was cold and that you would get chapped lips and dry skin easily. Days were shorter, but because of the chilly weather, you’d also feel hungrier faster. Something I didn’t see coming! Timing for iftar was definitely quicker, which also meant sahur was earlier too."

"Melbourne is quite Muslim-friendly. I have had the opportunity to buka puasa with many authentic cuisines namely Ethiopian, Indian, Pakistani and more. Some restaurants even give out dates, bananas and bread, which is similar to home.

There are Iftar gatherings and terawih prayers at local universities too. This was a common practice at the university where I was studying in Footscray.  There is a strong Muslim community presence in Footscray, so you can always join in with many iftar and terawih prayers easily at respective local mosques. Local online communities also make their best effort to sell or cook Malaysian cuisines which makes it feel a little closer to home."

Read more about Nabila's Ramadan experience in Melbourne here!

12. Perth: Where The Sun Sets At 5.30pm

Studying and living in Perth, our writer Wirnida tells us how she's had to find a community to turn to during Ramadan and how it's been like adjusting to life in Perth.

"Winter generally means that days are shorter. The sun rises at around 5.30 in the morning and sets by 5.30 in the evening. This means that in the Southern hemisphere, we fast for an average of 12 hours a day. That’s MUCH shorter than in Singapore or Malaysia (where it can go up to 14 hours a day). Generally, if you are working in an office, it is time to break your fast by the time work ends. Hence you don’t have to wait at the dinner table for the azan, which is something we do a lot in Singapore or Malaysia where the food is already on the table by 6.30pm but the azan only sounds after 7pm."

"Although the hours of daylight are shorter, the cold weather makes you feel hungry a lot faster than usual. The challenges of fasting here definitely cannot be compared to the everyday experiences of those who are less fortunate. Fasting during winter is definitely not as challenging as fasting in hot and humid Southeast Asia.

Generally, Ramadan is just like a normal day in Australia. While most non-Muslims are aware of Ramadan, they might not be as reminded that it is currently ongoing compared to our fellow non-muslims in Singapore. This is due to a very small number of Muslims fasting within the community. The mosques do organise iftar potluck during the weekends, but this varies depending on the mosque. Terawih prayers are definitely performed at the mosques on every single day of the holy month."

"Since some of us abroad do not have our families around, we organise iftar with friends instead. Coming together and bringing food to someone’s place creates an ambience close enough to what we grew up with. It may not be exactly like how we experience Ramadan in Singapore but we try to recreate those memories over here. Since Ramadan bazaars don’t exist in Australia, we also learn (google!) to make different sorts of food ourselves. Food that we generally buy at the Singapore bazaars such as Ramly Burgers and Dendeng are things we try to learn and make. These are invaluable experiences and a great learning journey for all of us to not take things for granted."

Read more about Wirnida's Ramadan experience in Perth here!

13. Marawi, The Philippines: A Filipino Muslim's Ramadan Experience

Mention the Philippines and you'd automatically associate it with being Catholic-dominated. While that is true, there is also a significant Muslim population and our writer, Hafsa comes from Marawi, a Muslim-majority city. Marawi was in war a few years ago and it's just gettiing back on its feet. Hafsa shares with us more about Ramadan in Marawi.

"Ramadan falls during the summer season which means longer days (15 hours of daylight), and shorter nights. It is the warmest time of the year. A week just before the month comes you can feel the change in the atmosphere. We do general cleaning in the whole house; it’s mandatory for my family so it’s pretty much a bonding of its own. Ramadan is like a magical time of its own, a haven from the world. We try to have delightful food, homes would get decorated, and families would get together. You can say it’s like a month-long festival. Calendar of the praying time for the month would be handed out for free from the locals. Stores would stock up on groceries staple for a Ramadan menu."

"Iftar programmes are very common in the Philippines; different organizations, associations and/or families provide iftar in places and events where there is a remembrance of Allah. In the masjid, it’s usually the men who go to iftar sessions since women just stay generally at home for prayer. A lot of homes host iftar for family and friends and are also open to neighbours and visitors.

Filipino Muslims eat peanut butter sandwich, local-style fruit salad, beef or chicken meat, dates (usually given as gifts from the local masjid or from friendly neighbours) and of course rice. Rich and the poor essentially become solitary as neighbours are so keen to share meals with one another, and so just 30 minutes before iftar it becomes an exchange of dishes from the whole block of the neighbourhood."

"Tarawih prayer is commonly the time when Masjids become full – so full that others have to extend their praying areas to the veranda. At night, you can feel the swift charge of energy in the atmosphere. Muslim-owned restaurants, which close during the daytime, open at night to accommodate people coming straight from prayer. Different programs like Qur’an reading contests, giveaway programs and other sorts also start after the Tarawih."

Read more about the Ramadan experience in Marawi here!

We hope you've enjoyed reading this round-up of Ramadan stories from around the world. Let us know what other compilations of stories you'd like us to do! Here's wishing everyone the best for the remaining days of Ramadan ?