Ramadan and Compromise

As we are in the second week of Ramadan – the holiest month of the year for Muslims, I was interested to hear, no actually the correct word is distressed, about the behavior of at least some of the Muslims in a school where I used to work. The non-Muslim, non-fasting Muslims were told by e-mail that they were not allowed to eat in the faculty room for the rest of the month, and that they could have their lunch in an empty classroom.

I’ve been trying to finish up this blog for days, but have been conflicted about just what it is that I want to say about this. On the one hand, I think that foreigners should be considerate of the local customs, that means don’t make a thing of eating in front of people who are fasting. It’s just not polite. On the other hand, having an edict come down from on high about what has to be done is, at best, autocratic. I would have thought that this is something that should have been discussed in a staff meeting. Something that could have been compromised on. The idea that we are creating a global community means some give and take on all sides. Unfortunately, most people seem intent on only having their own way. I’d love to hear some opinions on this. For those who are not familiar with Ramadan, here’s a little information.

In Arabic, Ramadan means scorching heat. It is the ninth month of the Islamic year which is lunar-based. Muslims all over the world spend the month of Ramadan fasting from dawn until dusk. They give up sexual relations, drinking, eating, and smoking. Muslims are expected also to control their relations with other people and not get angry, avoid immoral behavior, not swear, and show compassion to everyone. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. The other four are making the haj pilgrimage to Kaaba, praying five times a day, giving zaakat to the poor, and making the Announcement of Faith.

All healthy adults and children from the age of 12 or 13 are expected to fast. Children may fast, but they are not generally encouraged to fast for a full day until they reach puberty. Children may do some half-day fasts to emulate their parents and to see what fasting is like. People who are elderly, sick or pregnant do not have to fast, however they should compensate for not fasting by providing a meal for a poor person.

Muslims awake well before dawn to eat their morning meal that is known as sahur. They then fast until dusk at which time the open their fast. This meal is known as iftar. The Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) opened his fast with dates and water, and many Muslims follow that practice. After iftar, families and friends sit down to have dinner, and then many spend the rest of the evening socializing.

Fasting lasts for the entire month of Ramadan culminating in the holiday of Eidul-Fitr (Idul Fitri in Indonesian). On Eid, all Muslims congregate to pray, usually in a large field in Indonesia. Afterwards, they return home to visit neighbors and eat. Children traditionally receive presents on Eidul-Fitr, and everyone wears their best clothes. In Indonesia, there is a mass movement of the Muslim population as people return home for the holiday.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions by both Muslims and non-Muslims.

If you forget that you are fasting and eat something, you can continue on fasting. You do not need to make up the day later on for doing this. You may brush your teeth while you are fasting as long as you don’t swallow any water. Likewise you can swim and rinse your mouth out as long as you don’t swallow any water.


~ by drbrucepk on September 8, 2008.

2 Responses to “Ramadan and Compromise”

  1. Aslam-o-Alaikum

    Ramadan Mubaruk. May you have a blessed month. Ameen


  2. Yeah it’s a bit outrageous. That’s cool though I know from what you say about Islam that it is the extremists who are behind this. It’s such a shame humanitarism gets eaten by radicalism…….. I have had a few wines – does that make any sense?

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