After sunset each day during the Islamic month of Ramadan, faithful Muslims are allowed to break their day-long fast with festive meals to which family, friends and neighbors are often invited.
If you’re not Muslim, don’t worry — the Koran does not require fasting of you. Of course, if you are a Christian, the Bible does. But to Muslim faithful, fasting daily during the month of Ramadan is seen as an obligation and an act of worship. “It is among the best acts of obedience and greatest deeds, and one for which there is great reward,” advises the on-line al-Sunna website, which notes that:
Imam al-Bukhariyy related the Qudsiyy hadith that the Prophet said Allah said: which means: “The reward of every good deed is multiplied ten up to seven-hundred times, except that of the Fasting; it is usually done in sincerity and will be multiplied by as many times as Allah wills.” One of the doors of Paradise, named ar-Rayyan, is specified for those Muslims who used to fast in this world. On the Day of Judgment, it will be opened, and those who used to fast in obedience to Allah enter through it, then it would be closed and no others will enter through it.
What about non-Muslims who just feel like fasting for reasons such as solidarity with their Muslim friends? According to the al-Sunna website:
In this world, the non-Muslim is not requested to fast, however, in the Hereafter, he will be punished for neglecting to fast, as he will be punished for his blasphemy. Rather, the obligation on the non-Muslim is to embrace Islam, then afterwards, to fast Ramadan.
Children, pregnant women, nursing moms, diabetics and others who are not physically able aren’t obligated to fast. And here’s another exemption:
… for one to be obligated to fast, he must be of sound mind. Fasting is not obligatory on the insane person.
The non-Muslim may not realize that the devout follower of Islam can’t eat just anything when they break the fast. This isn’t just during Ramadan, either. Jews can only eat kosher food. Hindus observe food rules from the Dharmasastras. Muslims eat only halal foods. There are many things that are halal (allowed) or haraam (forbidden). There are also those which are mashbooh, which means “questionable.” The devout steer clear of them just in case. Haraam foods include pork and all its products, animals improperly slaughtered, alcohol and any other intoxicants, carnivorous animals, birds of prey — and any food that has come into contact with any of those.
So, what happens after sunset? A festive time of friends, fellowship and, yes, really good food.