This is my third Ramadan in Hungary and like every year, a lot of my non-Muslim friends have the same question, why not water? Before I delve into the details of why Muslims cannot drink water during their fasts, I would like to first accentuate what Ramadan really is. Every year, Muslims around the globe observe a month of fasting. No, this does not mean that they fast for 24 hours each day (this is not logical?!). Their fasts are observed from dawn till dusk. Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It starts when the crescent moon is sighted. Ramadan ends after 29 or 30 days (entirely depends on the moon) and concludes with Eid Al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast.
“[Fasting for] a limited number of days. So, whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] — then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] — a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess — it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.”
Surah Al-Bakarah [2:183-192]
For Muslims, Ramadan is considered as the holiest month of all and they anxiously wait for this month. Why?
Because Ramadan is considered as a month to spiritually cleanse yourself.
It is a time of spiritual focus and renewal. During Ramadan, Muslims fast, pray and gather as a bonded community. They reflect upon their past year’s actions, seek forgiveness for transgressions, refocus on self-discipline and spiritual practice (prayers and recitation of the Quran), and give alms to the poor and needy. In Islam, fasting in Ramadan is obligatory for healthy adult Muslims, except the elderly, the sick, pregnant or nursing women, menstruating women, and travellers.
So, what is the whole point of Fasting and Ramadan in general? This is a month to reflect on your deeds and engage in as many prayers as possible.
Ramadan is a challenge, but for many people, it is also about understanding the suffering of the less fortunate.
Throughout the whole month, Muslims are encouraged to give as much to charity as possible. This month is about empathizing with the less fortunate and learning how it is to be in ‘their shoes’. Which is why, towards the end of Ramadan, Muslims are required to give a portion of their wealth to the less fortunate.
For Muslims, the true essence of a fast is when one refrains from bad behaviour, negative comments, abusive language and actions that are not permitted in Islam.
Muslims also pray more and work tirelessly in their communities, all while fasting. But in general, Ramadan is a month to disengage from all bad habits and divulge into good deeds. It is a month of forgiveness and kindness which brings the society together as one.
But, if you ask me, it is not easy. Especially when you are not allowed to have water while fasting.
And to be brutally honest, it is difficult, however, not impossible.
But this is the whole point of fasting throughout Ramadan. When you give up food and drinks, you learn about yourself and your capacity. You learn patience, perseverance, commitment, empathy and kindness. I have been fasting for more than 8 years now and the level of patience and empathy that I have developed is something that I will always cherish. So, if you have Muslim friends and do not know how to act around them during this month?
The following will help you:
1. Be respectful of their beliefs.
2. Do not invite them for Lunch feasts.
3. They may join you for coffee breaks but please do not force them to have just ‘one sip’ of water because nobody is watching.
4. Yes, you can fast with them and they will actually be quite happy about it.
5. It is completely okay for you to wish them a Happy Ramadan Mubarak.
6. Do not make fasting about losing weight.
7. Yes, it is completely okay if you eat in front of them. Remember they are fasting for spiritual reasons and learning patience is one of the main aims of their fasts. So they will not hate you for eating.
In conclusion, Ramadan is the favourite month of many Muslims mostly because it encourages them to be a better person and the best possible version of themselves.
It is a constant reminder
that if you can challenge and improve yourself for a whole month then you can also do it for the rest of the year. With that being said, I wish a very Happy Ramadan Mubarak to all those celebrating.
Written by: Mariam Hamid