Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Ramadan for Non Muslims

I am repeating this post from September 13, 2007 because it found so much interest among my non-Muslim friends. We are all so ignorant of one another’s customs, why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe. There is a blessing that comes with learning more about one another – that blessing, for me, is that when I learn about other, my own life is illuminated.


(I didn’t take this photo; it is from TourEgypt.net. If you want to see an astonishing variety of Ramadan lanterns/ fanous, Google “Image Ramadan lanterns” and you will find pages of them! I didn’t want to lift someone else’s photo from Flicker or Picasa (although people do that to me all the time!) but the variety is amazing.)

Ramadan will start soon; it means that the very thinnest of crescent moons was sighted by official astronomers, and the lunar month of Ramadan might begin. You might think it odd that people wait, with eager anticipation, for a month of daytime fasting, but the Muslims do – they wait for it eagerly.

A friend explained to me that it is a time of purification, when your prayers and supplications are doubly powerful, and when God takes extra consideration of the good that you do and the intentions of your heart. It is also a time when the devil cannot be present, so if you are tempted, it is coming from your own heart, and you battle against the temptations of your own heart. Forgiveness flows in this month, and blessings, too.

We have similar beliefs – think about it. Our holy people fast when asking a particular boon of God. We try to keep ourselves particularly holy at certain times of the year.

In Muslim countries, the state supports Ramadan, so things are a little different. Schools start later. Offices are open fewer hours. The two most dangerous times of the day are the times when schools dismiss and parents are picking up kids, and just before sunset, as everyone rushes to be home for the breaking of the fast, which occurs as the sun goes down. In olden days, there was a cannon that everyone in the town could hear, that signalled the end of the fast. There may still be a cannon today – in Doha there was, and we could hear it, but if there is a cannon in Kuwait, we are too far away, and can’t hear it.

When the fast is broken, traditionally after the evening prayer, you take two or three dates, and water or special milk drink, a meal which helps restore normal blood sugar levels and takes the edge off the fast. Shortly, you will eat a larger meal, full of special dishes eaten only during Ramadan. Families visit one another, and you will see maids carrying covered dishes to sisters houses and friends houses – everyone makes a lot of food, and shares it with one another. When we lived in Tunisia, we would get a food delivery maybe once a week – it is a holy thing to share, especially with the poor and we always wondered if we were being shared with as neighbors, or shared with as poor people! I always tried to watch what they particularly liked when they would visit me, so I could sent plates to their houses during Ramadan.

Just before the sun comes up, there is another meal, Suhoor, and for that meal, people usually eat something that will stick to your ribs, and drink extra water, because you will not eat again until the sun goes down. People who can, usually go back to bed after the Suhoor meal and morning prayers. People who can, sleep a lot during the day, during Ramadan. Especially as Ramadan moves into the hotter months, the fasting, especially from water, becomes a heavier responsibility.

And because it is a Muslim state, and to avoid burdening our brothers and sisters who are fasting, even non-Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, touching someone of the opposite sex in public, even your own husband (not having sex in the daytime is also a part of fasting), smoking is forbidden, and if you are in a car accident and you might be at fault, the person might say “I am fasting, I am fasting” which means they cannot argue with you because they are trying to maintain a purity of soul. Even chewing gum is an offense. And these offenses are punishable by a heavy fine – nearly $400 – or a stay in the local jail.

Because I am not Muslim, there may be other things of which I am not aware, and my local readers are welcome to help fill in here. As for me, I find it not such a burden; I like that there is a whole month with a focus on God. You get used to NOT drinking or eating in public during the day, it’s not that difficult. The traffic just before (sunset) Ftoor can be deadly, but during Ftoor, traffic lightens dramatically (as all the Muslims are breaking their fast) and you can get places very quickly! Stores have special foods, restaurants have special offerings, and the feeling in the air is a lot like Christmas. People are joyful!

There were many comments on the original post, and, as usual in the history of Here There and Everywhere, the commenters taught us all more about Ramadan than the original post. If you want to read the original post and comments, you can click HERE.

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August 30, 2008 - Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, Relationships, Shopping, Social Issues, Spiritual

12 Comments »

  1. i always question the reasons given for why the restaurants are closed during fasting times. it seems to me that it is the most economical thing to do, because they won’t get much business. As far as non-Muslims eating in public, i think it’s great that they are respectful but i really don’t see it as their responibility. most people have children, elderly, and sick people that they feed all day anyway.

    Comment by ummadam | August 30, 2008 | Reply

  2. Interesting post! Even after being here for six years,I learnt something today.

    Comment by bbq8 | August 30, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hi all!

    Moon will not be visible this year. Since we had a total eclipse of the sun on August 1, Sha’aban started one day later, August 2. Then, there was a total eclipse of the moon on August 16 (Sha’aban 15). Tomorrow, the moon will not be visible in much of the Middle East but Sha’aban 30 will mark the end of the month anyway. Thus, Ramadan will start in any case on Monday. No need to watch out for the moon. See http://www.moonsighting.com/1429rmd.html for more information.

    I did moonsighting all the years when living in Kuwait. I went to a special place on top of Jal Azzor, near the western fence of the National Park. I never saw, by the way, the crescent. What kind of art it is, you may see a collection of moon photos here:

    http://www.moonsighting.com/moonphoto.html

    Ramadan kareem!

    Comment by Fahad | August 30, 2008 | Reply

  4. Ummadam – and menstruating women. It’s a generational thing, growing up we NEVER talked about having periods, it was totally taboo, it just wasn’t done. But today I hear women speaking openly about it, and making up Ramadan days that they missed because of their periods. That was new information to me, as well as the lack of self-consciousness when they talk about it so matter-of-factly. Many of my friends attend international meetings, etc. during Ramadan, where food is served (in private dwellings) because they tell me they get greater rewards for facing temptation and denying it power. If I were a restaurant owner, I would close, too! It isn’t worth opening for the very few customers – if any – who would show up!

    bbq8 – Me too! I’ve lived so many years in this culture, different countries, and I learn new things all the time!

    Thank you, Fahad! Great information! whoda thunk? Sorry for the delay in your comment appearing; because of the websites, it went to moderation and I didn’t see it until this morning.

    PS – Holy Smokes! I just checked the website. First, wow. Fabulous photos. Second, wow again, I always wondered what that thin crescent moon looked like. In some of the photos, it was really hard to spot! What a great website, and I am going to give it a spot of it’s own. :-) Thank you, Fahad!

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 31, 2008 | Reply

  5. Ramadan reminds me of Lent in so many ways.

    I have always wondered how Middle Eastern carriers get a handle on serving of hot meals and beverages during day flights. Or do they only pick and choose from the flight manifest whom to serve, and whom not to. Surely, Muslims will not be offended by non Muslims eating and drinking on flight during the holy month even if it is a public space. And do airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airways refrain from serving liquor on their Middle Eastern routes to all passengers during Ramadan?

    Comment by Nothing random about it | August 31, 2008 | Reply

  6. nothing random about it ;

    Muslims are allowed not to fast if they are travelling , u can see that once you cross the emigration booths , food is served in the airport departure lounges ,and on the air craft , but as a matter of courtesy one should refrain from smoking in order not to bother others who decided to continue their fasting .
    i have flown gulf air ( The mother of all evils ) in Ramadan and did not notice any serving of alcohol . I don’t know about other airlines .

    Comment by daggero | August 31, 2008 | Reply

  7. Ramadan Kareem to all my Moslem and Non Moslem brothers and sisters! As a practising Muslim I have never felt offended by anyone eating, drinking or smoking in public as long as they didn’t force me to doing it. We fast, we practise abstinence besides doing all manner of kind & generous things which a good Muslim is expected to do not because we are trying to impress the Almighty but because deep down each one of us feels rewarded and in-control of our lives, for a change. How many of us have lived and studied abroad during Ramadan but we never complained that our roomies and our non Muslim friends got in the way of our fasting as they went about their lives like any other ordinary day! So why should we police people of other faiths living in our midst when it comes to eating drinking or smoking in the public domain?
    Peace

    Comment by Anonymous | August 31, 2008 | Reply

  8. Nothing Random – I think food is offered equally to everyone, and some choose not to eat, some to eat. If you are in a hotel, people have food delivered to their rooms; there are exceptions to fasting – children, the elderly, the sick, women nursing babies, pregnant women, menstruating women . . .

    Qatar Air serves alcohol? I know QA owns the alcohol franchise, the place where card holders can buy alcohol, but I don’t remember seeing alcohol served on QA, but maybe my memory is slipping.

    Daggero, I totally forgot that the restaurants beyond the emigration check points are still open. And people should refrain from smoking because it is a NON-SMOKING AIRPORT!!! YES, I AM SHOUTING! Pet peeve, I hate for my clothes to smell smoky because rude people are smoking, and usually right under a no-smoking sign. Ouch! You pressed a button!

    Anonymous – your point of view is very generous and compassionate. You gave me a smile about the feeling for reward of being “in-control of our lives;” I have never for one instant felt in control of my life. :-)

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 31, 2008 | Reply

  9. International :

    There most certainly is a cannon sounding off at the end of the fasting day in Kuwait. We could hear it the time we were staying near the Marina Mall Corniche. And it’s not just my imagination although I have to say I am bit of a loose cannon myself.

    Comment by Come September | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  10. I knew that was you, BL, the minute I got to the loose cannon part. :-) Happy to see you. I guess I live too far away. I would love to hear the sound of that cannon.

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  11. [...] Ramadan for Non Muslims 2007 [...]

    Pingback by Ramadan for Non Muslims – 2010 « Here There and Everywhere | August 10, 2010 | Reply

  12. Reblogged this on Here There and Everywhere.

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 17, 2012 | Reply


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