Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Ramadan For Non Muslims

This is becoming a tradition. I wrote the first Ramadan for Non Muslims post in 207, and repeated it last year. As Ramadan moves inexorably into the hottest months of the year, the sacrifice only increases. Ramadan is slated to start this year on August 22, but that will be determined by the moonsighting committee; those who watch for the very first glimmer of the thinnest crescent moon of the lunar month of Ramadan.

Already, stores are increasing their supplies of specialty foods, which includes, to my amusement, oatmeal, which I must eat, and I detest. There are also increased supplies of nuts and candied fruits, eggs and creams and fabulous desserts and exotic fruits. Little lambies are not long for this earth, and cows and grown sheep are not far behind. This is not the season for killing the fatted fig.

My first Ramadan ever, in Tunisia in 1979, I remember they had bananas – it was the only time all year we saw bananas, real Chiquita bananas, a boat brought them in. On the other hand, the night I had a dinner party, eggs totally disappeared, and cream, all bought up by what my friends call “the Ramadaners.”

Imagine, if you can, an entire month of Advent and Christmas. Observant Moslems fast every day, from dawn to sunset, and gather with family and friends to celebrate and feast every night. Some women have a new dress for every day of Ramadan. The tailors are crazy; this and the Eid al Kebir provide them with guaranteed income and their busiest time of the year.

Most Westerners don’t understand Ramadan. I wrote the original article to try to explain Ramadan to them, that the season is as holy to them as our Lent and Easter are to us. Ramadan was the month when The Qur’an was transmitted to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel. Most Moslems try to read through the entire Qur’an at least one time during each Ramadan, and then many go to Mekka on the Hajj at the end of Ramadan. I have given you references to both of the original articles, because as is my great joy on this blog, my readers filled in a lot of blanks, and gave us a lot of information that I didn’t have. The comments at the end of the two articles are better than the original article, thanks to my readers.

Please, if you have anything to add, ahlen wa sahlen, you are welcome. It is a joy to learn from you.

First Ramadan for Non Muslims + comments

Second Ramadan for Non Muslims + comments

Ramadan started last night; 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!

August 21, 2009 - Posted by | Community, Cultural, Doha, Eid, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Qatar, Shopping, Spiritual


  1. May I? (as a non-Muslim one may wonder why I am still interested). Hajj is, of course, not at the end of Ramadan but in the middle of Dhu al-Hijja. I was thrilled of Ramadan as well when living in the Middle East. Still, I am (and was today) sending my Ramadan Kareem! wishes to all my (numerous!) Muslim friends and colleagues.

    By the way, if Sha’aban had already 29 days and the moon had not be seen on Thursday evening, Ramadan definitely starts on Saturday, irrespective whether the crescent could be seen today or not. I have learned from a learned Muslim.

    Best greetings from the Arctics to beautiful Qatar,

    Comment by Fahad | August 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. You are welcome, Fahad, and thank you for the correction, and LOL that no one else has picked up on that – this is the third year I have run that post, but there are such good comments, I always figure that non-Muslims can learn from the comments, if not from the post.

    So when people go at the end of Ramadan, that is Umrah?

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 21, 2009 | Reply

  3. Yes, I suppose so. But they do that during Ramadan. At the end they want to celebrate, with their families, Eid ul-Fitr. Hajj will be a big risk this year, I suppose, because of a likely outbreak of swine flu in Makkah.

    I was wondering what will happen to the numerous Muslims here in Northern Norway when Ramadan will enter the two months without sunset here (May 21 till July 21). Do they starve? Even right now there is darkness for a few hours only, but it’s not that dark. Due to that, there is no visible moon either. I suppose, it must be very confusing.

    Comment by Fahad | August 21, 2009 | Reply

  4. Hmmm. Interesting question! And then what happens when Ramadan occurs in the deepest part of winter, when sometimes the sky doesn’t lighten enough to distinguish the black thread from the white thread? Is there no fasting? 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 21, 2009 | Reply

  5. Muslims who live at extreme northern latitudes base the hours of their fasting and prayer on the last date on which there was a discernible sunrise and sunset in their locale. This can and does sometimes result in days where one is fasting for 18 hours, and days when the night prayer and the dawn prayer are less than 4 hours apart. Another option is to fast the hours of fasting and prayers on the discernible sunrise and sunset of a region south of them that is at the furthest north point where there is still a day and a night that is distinguishable.

    Comment by Signý | August 21, 2009 | Reply

  6. good , visit to my blog

    Comment by hima muchlashin | August 22, 2009 | Reply

  7. Happy Ramadan Intlxpatr. I hope Qatar is showing you a real Ramadan feel. To me (and yes I am bias) Kuwait’s Ramadan is THE BEST 🙂

    Comment by Bu Yousef | August 22, 2009 | Reply

  8. Thank you, Bu Yousef, and Ramadan Kareem, Ramadan Mubarak to you and your family. 🙂 Qatar’s Ramadan seems more family oriented, more private. EXcept for one thing – I think at the end, there are wonderful fireworks!

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 22, 2009 | Reply

  9. Thank you, Signy, for your explanation. It’s probably the primary reason I blog – so often there are posts where I learn something new and valuable from my commenters. Thank you. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 22, 2009 | Reply

  10. […] Ramadan For Non Muslims « Here There and Everywhere – view page – cached #Here There and Everywhere RSS Feed Here There and Everywhere » Ramadan For Non Muslims Comments Feed Here There and Everywhere Stunned Silence Hotel Suq al Waqif Ramadan Offering — From the page […]

    Pingback by Twitter Trackbacks for Ramadan For Non Muslims « Here There and Everywhere [] on | August 22, 2009 | Reply

  11. […] who has written a Ramadan Guide at Here There and Everywhere, says: Most Westerners don’t understand Ramadan…the season is as holy to them as our Lent […]

    Pingback by Global Voices Online » Qatar reflects on spirit, practice of Ramadan | August 28, 2009 | Reply

  12. […] who has written a Ramadan Guide at Here There and Everywhere, says: Most Westerners don’t understand Ramadan…the season is as holy to them as our Lent […]

    Pingback by Qatar reflects on spirit, practice of Ramadan :: Elites TV | August 28, 2009 | Reply

  13. […] curiosidad: Intlexpatr, que ha escrito una Guía del Ramadán en Here There and Everywhere, […]

    Pingback by Hipocresía ramadánica (Más) | La Yijad en Eurabia | September 2, 2009 | Reply

  14. i belive that fasting is very good, that it why choice islam as my reliogen. because i like to be praying. happy ramadan fasting.

    Comment by adam haruna | September 10, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: