By Zarina Amandi
It is the holy month of Ramadan, and millions of Muslims worldwide are observing solemn acts of worship in this sacred month. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and Muslims start fasting at the beginning of the month with the sighting of the new moon. Ramadan means a lot to practising Muslims as it is one of the five pillars of Islam. It comes with a lot of excitement, some lifestyle changes, and an increase in acts of worship.
As a Ghanaian Muslim, I am part of the global community of Muslims observing the holy month of Ramadan with fasting and other forms of Islamic practices of devotion to Allah. Since our Ghanaian culture and a lot of democratic societies encourage diversity and inclusion, you may have friends, co-workers, employees, or neighbours who are Muslim and observing the rituals of this holy month. So, how can you support the Muslims around you this Ramadan as they practice an important part of their faith? Let me take you on a journey where I discuss ways to support the fasting Muslims around you to make observing their fast easy for them. Since I am sharing from experience, these are practical tips on things you may be doing unconsciously, which you might want to reconsider in your daily relations with your fasting Muslim friends.
Do not invite them to eat your food
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is important to emphasize it. We know that it is a sign of courtesy and good-will in Ghanaian culture to invite someone to share a meal or drink with you, but if you know that someone is fasting, do not invite them to eat food. It could come across as if you are testing or mocking their faith, especially if you insist that they join you. As a Muslim, although I would not immediately take offence if someone who knows I am fasting invites me to eat in the middle of my fast, I appreciate people who acknowledge and respect the fact that I am fasting and do not do so.
Do not hide your lunch in a dramatic way
Although I want my friends to acknowledge that I am staying away from food due to my fast, I do not want to make them uncomfortable when they are eating their breakfast or lunch. I find it a bit dramatic when people who aren’t fasting tend to hide to eat in rooms or spaces they are uncomfortable sitting or eating in. I respect the thought behind it and the attempt not to tempt the fasting person, but honestly a fasting person will most likely not be drooling over food. Indeed, we may be hungry or thirsty at some point during the day, but we mostly do not mind if you are eating in the same room as long as you are not shoving the food down our throats. All I am saying is that you may sit at your side of the room and enjoy your meal without having to feel bad for eating in front of us.
Be considerate when assigning roles
Most fasting people are likely to have their energy levels diminish during the day. Whether you are at home or working in the office, you can delegate tasks in a way that would be considerate of the fact that they are fasting. Also, simple gestures such as giving the fasting person a few minutes break to say their daily prayers at work would be thoughtful. I must emphasize that a lot of Muslims do not wish to make fasting a hindrance to their abilities at their workplaces. Notwithstanding, it is prudent to be thoughtful, kind and understanding regarding the low energy they may have at work on some days. Most importantly, remember that things are not the same, and a lot of us are having to adjust to fasting and working in a pandemic.
Be kind with your words and actions
Ramadan comes with an increase in kind acts such as giving charity to the poor, showing love to neighbours, and sharing. A lot of Muslims share food, give donations, and more in the month of Ramadan. As we show love to other people, we like to receive some love too.
Unfortunately, some people chose Ramadan to be the time to bring up discussions on the supposed ills of Muslims. Undeniably, international media reportage and islamophobia have resulted in a lot of negative news and propaganda about Islam and Muslims, but I digress. If you have fasting Muslim friends, be kind with your words, extend well wishes and join them in being kind to others.
To employers, just as you would give some perks during Christmas or Easter celebrations, it is prudent to offer support to your Muslim employees who may be preparing for Eid at the end of Ramadan.
Stop asking about Sallah Meat
As a Muslim, I cannot count the number of times my non-Muslim friends have asked me for “Sallah meat” (meat shared or used in cooking Eid meals) whenever Eid is approaching. I cannot speak for every Ghanaian Muslim, but I can speak for myself and a few Muslim friends. It becomes a bit of a bother when there are incessant requests for meat towards the end of Ramadan. I would have appreciated that instead of the “sallah meat” requests, the people in question asked me how the fasting is going and wish me well as the holy month of Ramadan ends. I would also appreciate them asking if I need any support or help support a poor family without money to buy food or new clothes for their kids for Eid. Regardless, I must emphasize that Eid-ul Fitr (the celebration to mark the end of Ramadan), unlike Eid-ul Adha (commonly called the big Eid in Ghana) is not the celebration of sacrifice, where a lot of animals are slaughtered (as an act of worship). So, you may not be getting a lot of meat this time…sorry guys!
Invite them over for Iftar/Dinner
Iftar is the meal that Muslims eat after sunset when breaking their fast. A simple basket of fruits to your friends or an invitation to dinner to help your Muslim friends break their fast is a beautiful gesture. Remember, the well-meaning thought behind the gesture, especially if you do not share in the same faith, is a great way to show love to your friends and strengthen your relationship. It does not have to be expensive; many Muslims end their fast with dates, so getting your friends a few dates would be an act they would appreciate.
These are some of the ways in which you can support your Muslim friends during this month of Ramadan. Remember, fasting is a beautiful act of worship, and Ramadan is undeniably the most blessed of months in the Islamic calendar. Even if you do not understand this act of worship, know that it means a lot to the Muslims around you if you just showed them a bit of support in this holy month of Ramadan.
Let us know in the comments section how you have been there (or intend to be there) for your Muslim friends and family this month.