Fasting and Fellowship During Ramadan

Abdi Iftin | March 29, 2022

An Iftar meal, which is the meal to break the fast of Muslims during Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is also the holiest month. This year Ramadan begins on Saturday, April 2, for most of the world.

This year will be my twelfth Ramadan since I shared meal with my closest family members in Somalia. I started fasting when I was 11 years old. Kids of that age are not required to fast, since Ramadan is only mandatory for adults who are in good health. Kids may start fasting once they reach 15. But to me, it was always more than a religious duty. Fasting during Ramadan was building resilience and strength. It reinforced my relationship with God and family. Ramadan had always been the epitome of family values.

I recall some years I spent in a refugee camp in Kenya after I fled Somalia. There were some bitter Ramadan months as I fasted as an adult alone, without my family. The fasting days were long and uneventful. I could tolerate the hunger and thirst; I had trained for that. But I was not trained for living far away from my closest family members. It was hard to adjust to Ramadan without my family. I missed the days when we shared food, told stories and went to the mosque together. They made the days during fasting short and always eventful.

This year, as Ramadan arrives here in the U.S. and throughout the world, there are many refugees and people seeking asylum who will be fasting for the first time away from their closest family members. It is critical that we recognize this important month for our fellow Muslims. Millions, including tens of thousands of Afghans who have arrived in the United States recently, will be fasting from sunrise to sunset. The hours of fasting this year in the United States are long, as the sunsets later than 7 p.m. in many places. In many other parts of the world, the sun rises and sets the same time throughout the year.

With the holy month starting, schools and workplaces should consider the needs of their employees who are fasting all day. Teachers should check with their students who are fasting and communicate on their needs. The students will probably have to stay up during the night for the Tarawih and Tahjjud prayers that can last all night. Ramadan may last for 29 days.

Here are some ways that you can support Muslim colleagues and friends during Ramadan:
– Send out an email to all employees informing them about the start of Ramadan.
– If you aren’t sure whether someone is fasting, ask! Not all Muslims can fast.
– You can wish a fasting person a Happy Ramadan. Or Happy fasting month. The most common Ramadan greetings are Ramadan Mubarak and Ramadan Kareem—both mean, “Happy Ramadan.”
– Someone who is fasting cannot eat anything or drink any liquid. Do not offer them coffee or tea, any food or even water during the day!
– You can offer food or drinks for the person to take home to eat once they have broken their fast for the day.
– It is okay for you to eat or drink in front of someone who is fasting during Ramadan. That would not offend them.
– Offer a space for the person fasting to pray during the work hours. It could be a small space with a clean mat or clean floor.
– You can write cards to a person fasting, wishing them a healthy Ramadan.

Abdi Iftin is the Communications Specialist, Welcoming Communities at CWS.