Isn’t fasting basically starving yourself?
So what happens if you eat by accident? Does it still count?
Are you allowed to swallow your own saliva?
Growing up in an Islamic country, I rarely encountered individuals who weren’t familiar with the practices, significance and spirituality associated with the holy month of Ramadan even if they weren’t Muslims themselves.
Not once was I ever asked the question:
“Not even water?”
However, even since moving to Manchester, upon telling Non-Muslim peers that I’m fasting, the reponse has always been a mixture of awe and apprehension. Questions that in the first instance seemed obtuse, were just a reflection of a quiet curiosity with no mal intent (well, most of the time).
So I asked friends and peers for questions or assumptions they’ve made or heard about Ramadan. Let’s play Fact or Fiction!
Fact but also Fiction
Fasting is compulsory for every Muslim who is able to fast, however there several exceptions:
Common reasons include;
- Age, children and elderly people
- Illness, you don’t need to fast if you have COVID for example (could you imagine how difficult that would be)
- Long term health conditions, diabetes is a common reason
- Periods (how I would survive without ibuprofen I just don’t know)
- Travel (a little disputed though, but I personally don’t fast if I’m on a long haul flight)
There are lots of reasons someone may not be fasting so it’s important not to pass judgment on someone who you think should be fasting but isn’t.
Some people might also be uncomfortable explaining why they aren’t fasting so keep that in mind too before you ask someone, even if it’s just genuine curiosity on your part!
We’ve all been there! Especially in the first few days of Ramadan.
I’ve caught myself pouring a glass of water while I’m thirsty almost on autopilot. As long as the situation was genuinely an accident and you stop as soon as you realize, your fast isn’t voided.
I choose to believe the sentiment behind this statement is well intentioned, if misguided. Contrary to popular belief, fasting isn’t a chore for Muslims! We look forward to Ramadan every year and are very proud to practice our faith.
Islam places a great emphasis on intent, we fast for ourselves and Allah SwT, not as an act of performance! So even if we eat ‘accidentally on purpose’ and no one is around to see, it’s still voiding your fast and is a sin.
So you might mean well by saying this to a Muslim friend but in all honesty, it’s not helpful and we’d rather you encourage us to keep going if you see us struggling!
We produce saliva inside our own bodies, expecting us not to swallow would be pretty difficult. It’s not always conscious either!
Strictly speaking, there is absolutely no obligation not to eat in front of your Muslim friends, I always feel so loved when people offer not to eat or drink in front of me, because I know the intention behind that action is pure and sincere. But trust me, I’ll feel worse if you don’t eat!
We do appreciate people being considerate though, please don’t offer us food if you know we’re fasting and understand if we’d rather spend lunch in the library rather than in Costa!
Fiction? Fact? I don’t know to be honest
Weight is a funny thing, I try not to dwell on it too much.
I’ll fall back on the science for this. Typically, studies have found that Muslims tend to GAIN weight during Ramadan, since we tend to eat large amounts right before sleeping
When we eat in the morning before fasting (Sehri), I personally try to eat as much as possible to last the day, and when I break my fast (Iftar), it’s usually with lots of fried foods and snacks followed by another full meal. So I’d be surprised if I lost any weight!
Now please stop asking me
Kidding. I hope I’ve managed to cover some of the main misconceptions you have about Ramadan. There’s a lot of resources online and useful articles which can explain more about what the holy month of Ramadan is all about and why Muslims fast!
Manchester iSoc has a great selection of articles. Have a read here.
A fellow content ambassador Dorsa has written a lovely article about her experiences fasting away from home! Well worth a read so click here.
Ramadan Mubarak Everyone!