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7 Muslims Share How Their Non-Muslim Friends Were Their Source Of Strength In Ramadan


Faruq Senin •  May 26, 2019


It feels like Ramadan is passing by us so quickly that we are already entering the last 10 nights of Ramadan ? Throughout Ramadan, there'll surely be times when our faith will be tested time and again. But Alhamdulillah, it's also the time when we find hope and strength from the people around us. Credit: Giphy More than that, it's also amazing that we get to share the beauty of Ramadan and Islam with our non-Muslim friends. As you might already know, HHWT's vision is to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims through travel as we strongly believe that this is the best way to spread peace, especially with increasing hate and extremism today. This Ramadan, we're blessed to have heard many stories of support and encouragement between Muslims and non-Muslims, and it truly warms our hearts ? Here are 7 stories from our readers!
1. Khairunnizam, Singapore
I work as a Senior Assistant Station Manager at the Downtown Line. I work 7 days a week (rotational shift) before having my off days. While it is not challenging to fast at work, I do feel sad because most of the days, I have to break fast at my workplace, sometimes alone (if I'm not partnered with other Muslim colleagues. As such, I don't always get to meet my family and friends for iftar. Thus, having friends who support me morally means a whole lot to me. Tell us how your non-Muslim friends have shown you support. I don't have a big circle of friends but my friends are from all walks of life, and different religions. One such close friend is Alvin Lau Shijie. We have been good buddies for almost 2.5 years and this is the third year that I'm going through fasting in Ramadan, with his support.
But this year is more unique because Alvin decided to also fast, on his own accord. Although after talking through with him about the drastic step he was taking, he finally decided to start with water fasting instead. Still, it meant a lot to me because he has no reason to skip his meals and yet, he willingly does it to feel what I (and Muslims in general) feel during the fasting month. It wasn't easy initially for him but as the days went by, he got used to it. While he may not be up for pre-dawn meal, he ensures that he breaks his fast at the same time as I do (though we may not always be breaking fast together physically). His kind gesture really boosted my morale. While I'm usually alone at work, I don't feel lonely because I know, even my non-Muslim friend is doing just the same. What would you like to say to your friend to thank him?  To Alvin, a gazillion thanks for this nice gesture from you, especially since you're doing it on your own accord. Hopefully, you can continue water fasting or even full fasting in the future, not only to support your Muslim friends like me but also to reap the health benefits. Meanwhile, I'm so blessed to have befriended someone like you and get genuine moral support! [P.S. Love this story? Check out what this non-Muslim learnt fasting as a non-Muslim during Ramadan.]
2. Farhana, Singapore
I can relate to this topic very much. Growing up, regardless of whether I'm in school or at work, I am usually that Malay-Muslim girl, who for some reason, hangs around with people of different races and faiths. In fact, most of my close friends, be it from polytechnic or university, are non-Muslims and some are also great travel buddies of mine. So it doesn’t really matter if it is the month of Ramadan or not, they are already showing tolerance and respect for my faith. Tell us how your non-Muslim friends have shown you support. Without a doubt, having been friends for so many years, there were many instances where they showed care and concern for me during Ramadan in general. Most of the common support shown include trying not to eat/drink in front of me, looking out for my welfare and where possible, initiate group meet-ups in the late evening or at night. So, instead of just sharing about this year's Ramadan (which already seems normal to me ?), I'll share a particular event where I truly appreciated the support shown by this non-Muslim friend of mine.
So, this happened last year when I did my school exchange and had the opportunity to be abroad during the Ramadan month. At that time, I was travelling to different places in Europe with a Chinese friend of mine and she knew that I will be fasting during our travels. Still, she did not see it as a hindrance and was fine with it. For that, I am truly grateful because travelling with a Muslim girl, who is also fasting, there would definitely be a lot of give-and-take situations. Instead, she gave me tremendous support throughout our journey. She would ask me questions about Ramadan and our traditions like why do Muslims fast? How do we actually have the will power to "tahan" (endure) without food/water? How do we know the timing - when we can or cannot eat/drink? When are Muslims allowed to skip fasting? What do we usually do to prep for Raya? And the curious list goes on. In fact, it did spark conversations about Islam and we had a good talk about it. At one point, I actually broke down while sharing about my Ramadan stories back home (largely because I missed my family ?). Luckily, she was there to lend me her shoulder and calm me down. I am super thankful to have her company during such times. So to me, just by showing genuine interests about Ramadan/our traditions, and being physically present was a good enough support. She actually made my first experience as a Musafir a less arduous one! Definitely an eye-opening experience, one that I would not forget. But more importantly, I am heartened to have gone through it with a supportive travel buddy ? What would you like to say to your friend to thank her?  Time passes by very fast, and it has already been a year since our 3-week adventurous travels! I still can't help but be grateful to have such a wonderful friend who understands and show great tolerance and support for my needs. Despite our differences, we still could get along and it actually shows, amidst the rising concerns of Islamophobia in Singapore, there is still hope and there are nice people out there!
3. Nabila Shadrina, Bandung
I went to a Christian University, so most of my friends are non-Muslim. I have 4 close friends, with me being the only Muslim.
Tell us how your non-Muslim friends have shown you support. Every Ramadan, they will ask to buka puasa (iftar) together even though I'm the only one who fasts. In the past, they always apologise if they have a meal in front of me while I'm fasting and I feel so respected by them. Every year, we'll also have a Christmas dinner.
Writing this suddenly reminds me of the first day I wore hijab to the campus. I only started wearing the hijab in the last year of university. Somehow I felt very uncomfortable, I worried a lot about what my friends would think of me wearing hijab. In the middle of the day, I cried and they asked me why. The silly and young version of me answered: "I'm afraid that you guys won't be friends with me since I'm wearing the hijab." Turns out they fully supported my decision to wear hijab. We often talk about each other's religions and we're very open-minded about it. We’ve became friends for 7 years now and I feel so grateful to have them ❤️ What would you like to say to your friends to thank them? Thank you for being such good and supportive friends and for teaching me a lot about respect and tolerance.
4. Agung Rizky Fajri, Palembang/Jakarta
I'm originally from Palembang, South Sumatra, but I'm now living in Jakarta. Travelling is one of my hobbies, and Alhamdulillah, I've been given opportunities to travel all over Indonesia and part of the world, including SEA, Middle East, East Asia, and recently western Europe, because of my job and my background.
Tell us how your non-Muslim friends have shown you support. As Indonesia consists of various people of different backgrounds, ethnic groups, and religions, we have always been supporting each other with our religious practices. In Ramadan, my Christian and Catholic friends always ask me to organise "break fast" sessions together as our yearly routine. They also always ask permission when they want to drink or eat and try to find secluded places so we can't see them. In the first week of this Ramadan, I travelled to Antwerp, Belgium to attend some training there, and as we know, Belgium is not a Muslim-majority country. At first, I thought the committee and my training colleagues (as the participants were from all around the world, as far as Brazil, Canada, and Africa) were apathetic with my compulsory fasting practice, but actually they already knew that Ramadan was coming. Just a few days before Ramadan, my guide gave an announcement to all participants that sahur and dinner/iftar had already been arranged in our schedule for everyone  who was observing Ramadan. On my last day of training, I actually overslept during break fast time (in western Europe, the fasting duration is about almost 18 hours, very different from Indonesia which is only about 13-14 hours). My friends at that time - from Vietnam, Ghana, and Algeria - called my cell phone like about ten times (I was still sleeping ?). They even got my phone room number from the receptionist and called me, and after that they actually came to my room knocking until I woke up!
It turned out that they had prepared a small farewell party for me and told the Chef to whip up a special Moroccan dish for me to break fast. It was very touching and memorable for me to end my first trip to Belgium like this ? (I cannot share my friends' photo to protect their privacy, but here's the delicious food!) What would you like to say to your friends to thank them?  Thank you so much to all of my non-Muslim friends, for your kindness, tolerance, and understanding, especially to my overseas friends. I hope I can see you all again soon, hopefully in your home country!
5. Aliea Tjahjani, Jakarta
I live with my father and 3 nephews and nieces, which I had to raise because they were left by their parents. It's a little sad but I have to go through with it. I work at home because there is a family business that I have to attend to. I also work as a freelance employee in an online company. Tell us how your non-Muslim friends have shown you support. I'm a Muslim who has non-Muslim family and friends who are very kind and very tolerant of my religion. In this month of Ramadan, my non-Muslim family and friends are also very helpful in terms of giving me the prayer times or when breaking fast. They usually bring food and drinks when we meet in this month of Ramadan.
In Indonesia, we usually make time to go iftar together with friends from school or campus. We could say this is a small reunion that we make to meet old friends who we haven't met for a long time and this only happens in the month of Ramadan. Sometimes we like to joke, "don't wait till Ramadan next year to meet!" ? We usually meet in a restaurant in a mall to break fast together or hold a potluck at a friend's house with each person bringing food and drinks to serve and to eat together. Among us, there is no one who is lazy or angry if they are told to bring something. My non-Muslim friends are even more enthusiastic when bringing food or drinks. I once asked them, "why do you look very excited and happy if you're invited to a potluck or asked to bring something when we break fast together?" And their answer is that they are happy to be able to gather because they can help and sometimes some of them try fasting for a while even if it's only a few hours before breaking fast. They say they want to feel how fasting is like, and some also say that eating when breaking the fast after a few hours of fasting is better and they can appreciate the food better. Sometimes after we break fast together, us Muslims will do Maghrib, Isha, and Tarawih. Our non-Muslim friends will patiently wait for us to pray and after that, we will go together again or just chat afterwards. So Ramadan is a moment where family and friends all gather.
We even like to travel together but not during Ramadan. In Ramadan, we gather to show solidarity with family and friends, both Muslims and non-Muslims. This month also teaches us patience and tolerance. What would you like to say to your friends to thank them?  Thank you to my non-Muslim family and friends for helping me in every event together and also for tolerating us Muslims who are fasting and doing our prayers. Even though we are of different religions, we are still brothers and sisters, friends, and family ❤️ [P.S. Want to read more interfaith stories? Here's what this non-Muslim learnt when she travelled with her Muslim best friend!]
6. Diana San, Singapore
I graduated in an international school majoring in Mass Communications. So I have friends from different races and also from different countries.
Tell us how your non-Muslim friends have shown you support. As I'm a Muslim and fasting is an obligation, surprisingly my friends have been very understanding since day one. While scavenging for a good place to eat, they will try to accommodate to my needs, especially with regards to halal. When eating outside, they will always ask me “Is this shop halal?” I find it really cute and encouraging!
What would you like to say to your friends to thank them?  I would like to take this time and opportunity to let my Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese & Sri Lankan friends know that I truly appreciate their existence and how they make me feel loved around them. Although we were brought up in different countries, you guys always make me feel like home, and home is where I want to be right now. I truly miss our Ramadan outings where they will come just exactly at 7pm to eat together with me.
7. Velda, Jakarta
I’m an Indonesian who is currently staying in Jakarta. This is something that I observe happening in Jakarta which I want to share with everyone. While Indonesia has one of the biggest Muslim populations in the world, other religions are also free to practise their beliefs. I believe there’s harmony between all religions, and here's one example. Surprisingly, this initiation comes from a minority religious group, the Buddhists.
In Jakarta, particularly West Jakarta, there’s a Vihara (monastery) named Vihara Dharma Bakti, at Petak Sembilan, Glodok. During Ramadan, they will provide Iftar for free for all Muslims. This Iftar includes kolak (banana with coconut milk), tea, mixed rice with vegetables and fish, etc. They provide around 300 until 500 meals to share with everyone, and the money for the meals are collected from the donations of each person who usually prays in this Vihara. Their purpose is very simple - to promote harmony between Muslims and Buddhists.
I went to the Vihara and saw how they prepare iftar. There was sweet tea, selasih ice with jelly, and mixed rice with fried chicken. They prioritize to Muslim dhuafa (underprivileged) and the other people who are curious about this project.
This is actually their second year organising iftar together with Muslims at the Vihara. One of the organisers is Muhammad Bayu Hamka, an Indonesian Muslim convert. Unfortunately, I couldn't meet him at the event, but I’m glad that I met Lucas, a volunteer leader of this project. I feel that it’s very good to visit this Vihara to meet new people and interact with those of other faiths. This is the best experience I've had (as a Muslim) interacting with Indonesians from a minority religion. Vihara Dharma Bhakti or Kim Tek Le is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Jakarta and they have a very strong history of Chinese culture. So this gives you a chance to not only learn about tolerance but also an appreciation of other cultures. Thanks to them - I've learnt the importance of being kind to everyone no matter what. I see how understanding they are, especially when they ask about the iftar time and it's eye-opening to see them working together with the community to provide food for Muslims. Indonesia is currently having a very serious problem with regards to religion, especially after the presidential election. But for me, as long as they (non-Muslims) are kind to us, they are our brothers and sisters of humanity, regardless of their religion, race or skin colour ❤️ We hope you've enjoyed reading these stories! Let us know in the comments section if you have any Ramadan stories to share ? [READ ALSO: This Chinese-Muslim revert tells us 8 things he's learnt during Ramadan and how it goes beyond just hunger and thirst.]