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Humans of Ramadan: Experience May Vary

graphic by Kaighla Um Dayo
graphic by Kaighla Um Dayo

So far in the Humans of Ramadan series, We have heard from humans about what Ramadan is to them in the original Humans of Ramadan. Then we heard from more humans about what it is like to be an observing Muslim and not be able to fast due to medical conditions in Humans Who Can’t Fast.

This week, we are getting a sense of what it is like to experience Ramadan and fast in different places around the world. I give you Humans of Ramadan: Experience May Vary … depending on location.

Sara A.

I just came back from the European Istanbul (yes, that is what it is called). In Istanbul, near Istikhlal St. and Taksim Sqaure, there is a very strong secularist movement. No one was fasting. Furthermore, the hotel I was staying in considered providing Sahur [the morning meal before fasting] as an inconvenience and were not accommodating at all.

European Istanbul
European Istanbul

People say, ‘Well, Turkey is secular and we planned a group lunch. So, we are going to lunch. You can bring a box home with you to eat later.’ [They are] completely unwilling to consider accommodating the fasting person. Now, this is not all of Istanbul, just the very secular portions.

[But] I was very pleased to learn when my non-Muslim colleagues in the U.S. would chose not eat in front of me, or save goodies for me for later, or postpone lunch appointments to dinner meetings (or lunch dates after Ramadhan) so I might participate. My colleagues [in the US] are very kind.

Faizah Sylvester

I fasted my first full Ramadan when I was 10 years old in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I personally loved the idea of knowing I was surrounded by people who were doing the same thing I was doing. In that aspect you are not the odd ball out. […]

Ramadan in Riyadh
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

I love Ramadan in the US because I personally feel as if it brings the Muslim community closer together during this month. I love going to pray tarwiyah [night time prayer during Ramadan] with my Muslim sisters at the masjid [mosque] and sharing iftars [sunset meal to break the fast] with friends, family, and sisters I barely know.

The thing I hate about fasting in the US is the fact that you are surrounded by people who act as if you are crazy for fasting the way we do. I work at Wal-Mart, and I try to exercise patience while working among ignorant non-Muslims who are biased in the South.

[…] For Example, just yesterday a non-Muslim man told me, ‘You focus too much on your religion and not on being human’. Too me, he was basically saying because I don’t openly or willingly engage in the lifestyle of non-Muslims I am not living.

Papatia Feauxzar

I hail from a country around north and west Africa. I love the atmosphere in a majority Muslim country. It’s just different. Muslims and non-Muslims are excited about the month alike.

Muslims make it their number one goal to make the month special. And daily, they jostle to go the extra mile to pray on time, to plan a good iftar, to clean their homes and steam them with the best incenses they can find, to listen to Qur’anic recitals, and recite the Quran if they can read it. They try to act better.

Ramadan in Tunis
Tunis Bay, Tunisia

Non-Muslims are excited because they’re usually invited to iftar dinners. Muslim women outdo themselves culinary during Ramadan. And who doesn’t like a good dinner and dishes that are only made during Ramadan?

Time is money in the US, so long hours allow us to go to work and come back home and do house chores and pray. Labor jobs [maids and nannies] are expensive and not easily affordable by the average Jane.

So, house chores-having a job-planning iftar are all feasible with the way days and nights are designed in the US by the Almighty. Above all, I like how time in the US allows me to accomplish all the things on my to-do list without having any help from a family member or a maid.

[…] I have come to love Ramadan in both countries. [In the] US, you see different races every day and you don’t think to pin Muslims on them. Then when Ramadan comes around you think, ‘What? This Asian or Caucasian is Muslim? Or this African American is Muslim? Or this Latino is a sister? It’s amazing masha’Allah [God has willed it].’ It brings people together at masajid [mosques] and it opens your mind. Allah is the greatest. His religion has no boundaries. And that’s how He willed it and intended it.

Kaighla Um Dayo

I have only fasted twice since I converted in 2009 (thank you, perpetual pregnancy and nursing). The first time was when I converted, and I was living in Chicago. It was rough, but my Muslim friends helped me. Now, I am in Egypt.

Fasting in Egypt is much easier than fasting in America simply because you know that

El Dahar, Egypt
El Dahar, Egypt

all the people you meet– from the baker to the candle-stick maker– are also either fasting or trying to avoid people knowing they aren’t fasting. […] Having the adhan [call to prayer] for maghrib [sunset prayer and the time at which the fast is over] being announced loudly over speakers in all the masajid makes for a really festive, collective feeling of anticipation and relief.

One interesting thing here [in Egypt] is the change in schedules: On the one hand, it means most workers are able to work shorter days, but on the other, it means that people stay awake all night long laughing and kids are outside playing and screaming in the street until nearly fajr [the dawn prayer]. Since I have small babies who are not fasting, this means we all struggle to get enough sleep at night.

If you have any questions about Ramadan, the Humans of this month, or fasting in different locations, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments! And please share your Ramadan experience from your part of the world.

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13 thoughts on “Humans of Ramadan: Experience May Vary

  1. All my previous life I have fasted Ramadhan in a Muslim country, Jordan, and it was always easy since every one around is fasting, and even those who do not fast do not usually eat or smoke in public. It was an incident to see some one smoking in his or her car for example, and was usually something that one would remember to the end of Ramadhan and repeat it in gatherings with a frown: “The other day, I saw some one…… smoking while he drives!”

    When I worked in a private company that was owned by a Saudi business man, and had Saudi partners. It was completely prohibited to eat or drink or smoke in Ramadhan. I remember once a colleagues was caught smoking in the stair case, he was reported and was orally warned by his manager.

    But my perspective shifted when I worked in an international organization.

    Here, we have lots of Arab Christian, expats from oversees, and non-practicing Muslims, in addition to the average practicing Muslims that observe fasting. Each year, the management sends a warm Ramadhan greeting, and advices every one to respect the holy month and refrain from eating in public. Now I see that Ramadhan for non-Muslims in a Muslim country is REALLY difficult. Here, people who do not fast endure all sorts of strong eye looks if they were caught, say, filling hot water for their tea from the water cooler in the corridor. They have to eat in secrecy, keep apologizing from fasting colleagues if they were caught eating, avoid smelly food and eat only simple kinds of food that do not smell, avoid coffee… and they still endure some gossip from fasting colleagues about a coffee mug that was carried in the corridor or an apple that smilled!

    The truth is, we do not accommodate them during the Christian fasting. During the time of fasting, we continue ordering food as normal, smelly burgers, juicy scallop sandwiches, pepperoni and salami and sausage pizzas, cakes and sweets that they cannot eat, and we invite them, and when they refuse politely because they are fasting the maximum thing we do is saying: “Oh, sorry, you are fasting”… and we go on eating!

    So this Ramadan I made a decision: at time of Christian fasting, I will not eat in front of, or invite Christian colleagues except for foods that are compatible with their fasting! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. MashaAllah, that is really amazing on your part to take into consideration those who are not in the majority or positions of power. I didn’t realize that Christians still practised fasting. Here in the states it is unheard of for a Christian to fast like Muslims do. The very, very religious may refrain from snacking or even food all together, but not drink. May Allah reward you for your sensitivity to others in their devotion!!! ❤ Maybe you can get other Muslims on board with your plan not to eat in front of the Christians during their fast. Send the Christians my best when it is their time to fast. And send my Salams to all the Muslims! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They do 🙂 they omit every animals’ product and stick to vegetarian food 🙂
        And sure… InshaAllah next fasting season I wilk tell my Muslim colleagues about my intentions 🙂

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  2. That was my participation 🙂

    I have read through the experiences of the writers, thank you for every single one of them for sharing their experience! 🙂

    Like

  3. Very interesting post!
    I wanna try to fast in another countries where have different times with mine! Insha’Allah one day!😊 It’d be nice, because I’ve never done fasting shorter than 12 hours (except when I was child)😉 or longer than 19 hours / day.

    Liked by 1 person

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