Hungry for Ramadan

Hungry for Ramadan

It’s True – Not Every Muslim Fasts

not_fasting.jpgWhile fasting is considered one of the mandatory pillars of Islam, there are several circumstances where it is acceptable for a Muslim not to fast. The ill, pre-pubescent children, and menstruating or nursing women are all automatically exempt, and those who are traveling are given leeway as well (though it can be argued that a 20-mile journey on camelback in the deserts of Arabia isn’t comparable to the standard daily commute). Other than those exceptions, it is generally understood that fasting is required of Muslims during Ramadan.
Therefore, you might assume that every Muslim you come across in your daily life (that is, if you come across Muslims at all) is fasting. However, this isn’t necessarily the case.
It’s not something you’ll hear most Muslims admit freely, but not all Muslims practice their religion the same way – much like adherents of any other faith. Quite often Ramadan is the time you’ll learn you have a Muslim coworker, when he or she politely declines the office lunch that everyone else is gathering in the conference room for. It might also be a time when that same Muslim coworker bites his tongue as the fellow Muslim he knows in the office is chowing down with the rest of them.


For most of my professional life, I have had between two and ten Muslim colleagues at a time, and the awkward reality is that I have always been the only one in the office fasting. Of course, there are many reasons why my Muslim colleagues don’t fast, and it is good to remember that in an age of so much fear about Islam or Muslims, some might be genuinely concerned about the possibility of workplace discrimination. I am certainly not in a place to say or do anything to my Muslim colleages (the Qur’anic admonition that there is “no compulsion in religion” rings in my head), but it does present a delicate challenge.
I go out of my way to make sure that my non-Muslim colleagues do not feel uncomfortable about my fasting. The same goes for my Muslim non-fasting colleagues as well. While they may nervously offer up reasons why they have coffee cup in hand (the most popular excuse: “I have to take my medicine on a full stomach”), at no time did I ask for such a reason. Faith is a deeply personal experience, and there is no value in a compelled act of faith.
I am not fasting to show off or to make a point to people. Ramadan is supposed to instill humility and temper the tendency to be arrogant or judgmental. I am fasting to better myself and please God. In situations like this, I choose to be an example of someone who quietly merges his religious responsibilities with his career in such a way that neither is compromised. If my Muslim colleagues find inspiration in my actions and start fasting themselves, that’s wonderful. If not, I wish them all the blessings of Ramadan anyway, in whatever way they see fit to practice it.

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Sadiah Hills

posted September 26, 2007 at 9:55 pm

I am a Singaporean who work and live in Saudi Arabia-Al Khobar. It is so frusting fasting in Saudi! The country literally turn night into day!They sleep till last in the day and stay awake and consume till Fajah! Shops are open from 8pm till 2am! It’s scary to go out during this time and moreover I rather be in bed at that time during Ramadan.
The working hours in the hospital are from 5pm till 3am, for most of the Admin staff, its just silly and not necessary.
In Singapore life goes on as per normal, shops are open during the day and we breakfast eating out and we finish our last prayer and go to bed and wake up normal time to start the day with fasting and going to work!
I will never be able to understand the month of Ramadan here is Sunny Saudi!
Sadiah Hills

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posted September 27, 2007 at 12:52 am

I don’t see how one can ‘show off’ with fasting. Other than there is a situation that presents itself that you’re fasting (declining an invitation to lunch, or explaining that you will decline lunch for the next 30 days)… I thought that was one of the superiorities of fasting, no one readily knows what you are doing (as compared to salah, they can see you do it), it’s between you and Allah.
Riyaa… Audhoo billah min dhalik, Aameen

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Shahed Amanullah

posted September 27, 2007 at 10:27 am

I don’t see how one can ‘show off’ with fasting
Well, when you have a situation where one Muslim is fasting and another isn’t, the one who is could rub it in the other’s face. That would be showing off.

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Shahina Bashir

posted September 27, 2007 at 11:26 am

I used to be one of the Muslims who didn’t fast. But there was no problem with that since I didn’t have any Muslim co-workers and it was easy to blend in with all the non-Muslims. Alhamdullilah! Now I am a practicing Muslim and fasting comes as naturally to me as making salah. I do have friends and family members who do not fast and that is because they don’t practice Islam either. Then there are some Muslims who would fast but would not make salah or pay attention to the other Islamic practices. I can never understand the logic behind this behavior. Needless to say there is so much joy when a family fasts together. As a mother and a wife I love to get up at Suhoor and prepare a meal for my family just as I love putting together Iftar (meal to break fast).
Shahina Bashir
Maryland, USA

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Shahina Bashir

posted September 27, 2007 at 11:38 am

Thanks Sadiah for sharing your comment regarding Ramadan in Saudi Arabia. I heard the same thing from one of my co-workers who used to be in Saudi Arabia. It is quite ironic that the Saudis claim to be the puritans (Wahabbis) yet they themselves don’t follow the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAW). I am sure that during his time, he and his companions did not sleep all day and stay up during the night. Due to the climate, it is understandable when no one can do much during the peak heat of the day and that is the time when people stay indoors and take rest. However, the idea of changing the work and school schedules is not something that is Islamic.
Shahina Bashir
Maryland, USA

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Dilara Hafiz

posted September 27, 2007 at 5:34 pm

I love your spiritual approach to fasting – it truly should be a personal endeavor, not done to impress other Muslims! My teenage son attends a Jesuit Catholic high school. During this past week, he’s fasted a few days, but not every day (again, no compulsion in religion – he knows the rules, but it’s his choice). Yesterday, the sole Muslim student who was fasting reproached the other 12 Muslims who weren’t & told them they were all going to Hell (hmmm, I thought only God could judge…) My son actually felt that this microcosm of the Muslim population was a good example to non-Muslims that not all 1.3 billion Muslims behave in exactly the same way, they are not a monolithic, robotic block of humanity! As authors of ‘The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook’ – my teens surveyed American Muslim teens & the variety of responses to the question “Do you observe the fast of Ramadan?” was not a surprise to me. We’d love to send you a copy of the book – how do we get one to you?? Please visit & drop me a line!

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posted September 27, 2007 at 8:48 pm

Your blog had me laughing!! I will visit more often Insha Allah! I have never worked around any other muslims so I always wondered if every muslim fasted when certain situations arised. I guess not!

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farida mohammed

posted September 28, 2007 at 11:17 am

Salams and ramadan husband who is diabetic keeps all his fast.yesterday he came home and said he met two muslim brothers on work and when the topic of fasting came up both implied they were not fasting because of medication..hmmmm strange ..he is on medication too and both looked just as healthy as he does

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Shirley Brown

posted October 2, 2007 at 1:39 pm

I must say that I have also encountered Muslims that do not fast. I am a Christian woman newly married to a Muslim man and I out of respect for my husband and his Religion fast and also make Salah with him. I feel that as a wife, and a friend to him that it is my obligation to respect him in such a way.

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posted October 9, 2007 at 12:32 pm

I think that you have a wonderful attitude and it’s great that you don’t want to impose on others, but I think maybe your Muslim colleagues should feel a tad uncomfortable.
Maybe you’ll be a good example to them. I have heard all types of excuses too, but there really are very few people that have a valid excuse for not fasting. I have even seen pregnant & nursing women fast (although I definitely wouldn’t advise it!) and also elderly people who are not sick seem to manage the fast just fine. most medications can be taken during sohoor before the fast.

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