What Most Muslims Don’t Know About Ramadan

By: Rida Sadiq
Food is life. I eat when I’m all happy and out to with lunch with my friends, I eat when I’m sad about things (mainly because favorite character died on “The Walking Dead”) and most importantly, I eat when I’m bored at home. The idea of not eating all day honestly scares me.
Why would someone choose not to eat all day? Why? Food is literally the most important thing in my life. It’s stable, and it’s always there for me. So why would I give that up?
A lot of religions have their ways of expressing their gratitude for the one above, and it’s amazing to see how different and cool everyone’s religions and values are. In the summertime (starting June 5, 2016), Muslims — a group of approximately 1.6 billion people — choose to fast for 30 days. They have no food and no water from sunrise to sunset.
Growing up, I’m pretty sure many people asked me why I couldn’t eat all day. My friends in high school would offer me cupcakes, and I had to turn them down. I’d go to summer weddings, and I couldn’t enjoy the salmon and asparagus. Oh, and working out was a no-go during Ramadan.
It’s the real “Hunger Games,” my friends. The only thing one can do during this month is smell the food from the passing restaurants and watch endless cooking shows.
But, there are so many important values and lessons that come up with fasting all day that people don’t often think about, even Muslims themselves. Fasting isn’t just about controlling your hunger and starving yourself. There is so much more that comes out of this month of self-control.
There’s a lot of misconceptions about the 30-day period where one cannot eat. In high school and college, I would get asked questions such as,
“So, you can’t eat for 30 days straight?” or “
Can you even have gum
?” To be honest, getting asked these questions is actually fun because of the discussion that comes out of them.
Fasting is determined by the sight of the crescent moon (hilal) in the sky. So, once that is spotted the next day, people can begin fasting. You can eat before sunrise, but you must fast all day. Then, you can proceed to eat at sunset. (That’s usually the time I eat a few candy bars and make my daily Chipotle run.)
You repeat all of that the next day. Also, not everyone is required to fast. The ill, the pregnant and young kids don’t need to. It all depends on ones ability to do so, and there are no specific requirements.
There have been many times during Ramadan when I’m out with a friend, and he or she gets something to eat. I’ll be staring at my friend from across the table, and all of sudden, my friend will realize what he or she has done.
“Oh my God, I totally forgot you can’t eat,” my friend will say, and he or she will stop eating.
If you have a friend, co-worker or family member who’s fasting during this month, do not feel bad for the person or embarrassed to eat in front of him or her (even though this person may be drooling from inside). Fasting isn’t about not connecting with the food you eat and depriving yourself. For Muslims, it’s about having a connection with God and cleansing the soul.
So, go ahead and eat that cheeseburger, Sara. No worries.
Now, no one is perfect. We all party, we all get mad and we all have uncontrollable emotions. That’s what being human is all about.
This month is not just about not eating. Not eating is just teaching one to be without food, and Ramadan is also about the mind. This month is about riding ourselves of anger, being patient and letting our souls be cleansed of any hate or frustration.
It doesn’t mean you have to be all peppy and cheery every day, but you shouldn’t your negative emotions overtake your life. Abstain from yelling, gossiping and jealousy overall. Doing little positive things like saying hello to a stranger are part of cleansing yourself during this important month.
Cleansing can be done by praying five times a day, meditating or even speaking kindly to someone. It all depends on the person
Ramadan has so many aspects to it. There are family gatherings, eating at sunset with friends and family and doing things for the less fortunate. By spending 15 hours a day not eating, it makes you realize how much you have. It puts things into perspective. It teaches you discipline and patience, and it reminds you to count your blessings.
At the end of those 30 days, there’s a pretty bomb three-day festival called Eid al-Fitr. It’s where families gather, have parties, hang out with friends and eat 30 days worth of food in 24 hours. (Well, not really, but I’ve done it. I just can’t help myself around cake and baked goods.)

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