Questions People Often Ask Muslims about Ramadan and Fasting

Source: An Iranian Iftar meal in Ramadan by sayyed shahab-o- din vajedi, Wikimedia Commons

Ramadan is a full month of fasting and prayer that takes place every year. Note though, that Ramadan falls on a different date each year.

In 2018, Ramadan begins in the evening of May 16 (Wednesday) and set to end in the evening of June 14 (Thursday). That means that during this period Muslims abstain from consuming food, water, cigarettes, and sexual activities from sunrise to sunset.

Non-Muslims have an abundance of questions to ask about this particular period -- ranging from valid to ridiculous. Here are some of them.

What if you eat a minute before sunset?

Source: Arturo Mann, Wikimedia Commons

Breaking your fast a minute too early could render the day’s fast invalid. Tsk tsk.

So how do you know when sunset is?

I read somewhere that you can just Google the actual sunset time. But most Muslims check with their local mosques on the proper timing.

Why does it fall on different dates each year?

Source: מוחמד מסארווה, Wikimedia Commons

Well, the Islamic calendar is not the same as the Gregorian calendar, which most of us use. The Islamic calendar is 11 days shorter than the latter. That is why it does not have a fixed date each year.

You don’t consume anything, not even water?

Between sunrise and sunset, you can’t consume anything. Not even water. Just air. Or your own saliva.

Don’t you get thirsty or hungry?

Of course we do get hungry. Thirsty, definitely.

Can I eat in front of you?

But, of course you can eat in front of us. That is not really considered offensive. However, if you’re sensitive to our religious practices, you will try not to do it in front of us. It doesn’t help.

Do you have a massive feast before sunrise or after sunset?

An iftar buffet at one of the 5-star hotels in Riyadh during Ramadan. Source: Peter Dowley, Wikimedia Commons

Some Muslims do eat their favorite dishes before sunrise – and of course drink water. The evening meal, Iftar, is when most Muslims eat their fill. In most Muslim countries, breaking of the fast is done as a community. There are restaurants capitalizing on this. They serve special Iftar dinner packages for groups. 

For most Muslims, the Iftar is a joyous occassion -- to get to (finally) eat, say their evening prayers, and get to bond with other members of the community.

Are there people exempted from this?

People with pre-existing medical condition who may be put at risk by fasting are not expected to observe Ramadan. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those who have their period are not expected to adhere to it too.

Do you lose weight though?

Source: Syefri Zulkefli, Wikimedia Commons

For most of us, no. Some eat up their weight in food (kidding). Some do tend to overindulge and it’s not healthy, not recommended. Some do lose weight, short term. Although after Ramadan, they gain it all back, every single lb lost.

Do you brush your teeth between sunrise and sunset?

Of course we do! When our breath seems stale from all the non-drinking of water, yes we do. Or we gargle with mouthwash.