Ramadan 2013 is expected to begin next week, 9 July 2013, and Muslims around the world are now preparing (spiritually and physically) for the celebration. The Holy Month of Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims, and like most special occasions, participating in the celebration of Ramadan is a great opportunity to strengthen personal relationships. Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims, and there are certain rules that govern what Muslims are allowed and not allowed to do during Ramadan. It is during this time when a Muslim would need spiritual and moral support from a relative or a friend.
In the first installment of this two-part blog series, Ahmad Musahari, the author of the blog Anak Iluh, MD, a blogger friend from Jolo, Sulu and a Medicine student from UP Manila, shared with us what non-Muslim Filipinos should know and learn about Ramadan: what is Ramadan, why is it important for Muslims, and what do Muslims do during Ramadan. For the second installment, Ahmad will share with us how non-Muslims can appropriately interact with their Muslim friends, relatives, classmates, colleagues and acquaintances during this holy month, what non-Muslims can do and what non-Muslims should avoid doing. Magsukul/Salamat Ahmad!
Ethics During Ramadhan for Non-Muslims
By Anak Iluh (Ahmad Musahari)
Ramadhan or the month of fasting for Muslims is now fast approaching. And for a country where non-Muslims dominate the population, there are always some point in time where a lot of people are getting curious of what really Ramadhan is. What do Muslims do in this month? Why is it so special to them? What can non-Muslims do to appreciate this month? And how can non-Muslims appropriately join in with their celebration?
To have a short reading on need-to-know-about-Ramadhan, please visit my post: Ramadhan for Non-Muslims. And in this post, we will talk about answering the question stated earlier: What can non-Muslims do during Ramadhan? Here is a list of things that non-Muslims can do and should avoid doing, from one Muslim’s personal experiences in living in a place where non-Muslims are the majority.
What you can do:
1. Know who are Muslims around you.
Before Ramadhan kicks in, keeping in mind who are Muslims around you--in your neighborhood, in your office, or in your classroom—will ultimately ease things both for you and your Muslim friend. Why is this so? When you are aware that this friend of yours is a Muslim, you will be more careful and would avoid inviting your friend for a meal when he or she is fasting. These kind of scenarios—a non-Muslim inviting a Muslim to eat—is a common happening in places where Muslims are minority of the population (like the Metro Manila), because the people are already used to it. Of course, a Muslim would politely decline your invitation considering that maybe you never knew that he or she is fasting. But if you are fully aware of this, these kinds of awkward scenarios would be avoided.
2. Ask about Ramadhan
If you can spend some free time with a Muslim friend, ask him or her about Ramadhan. What do Muslims usually do before and after fasting, where do they spend their days, ask about ‘Eid, what should Muslims do and not do while fasting, and some other simple questions you can ask that your Muslim friend can answer. This is a good way for you to learn more about Ramadhan and Islam, and also a good time for a fasting Muslim to spend time sharing what he or she knew. (Just be understanding and moderate on asking questions and don’t go higher than what your friend can afford to answer :)
3. Try fasting for a day
If you have a Muslim room-mate or a house-mate, you can ask him to let you join and experience fasting. Wake up early and eat shuhur together, observe what they would do and ask if you are doing things right. Start by fasting for a half-day where you can break your fast by 12 noon. But if you are really up to the challenge, then try fasting for a whole day and join your friend until iftar (breaking of fast at sunset). Experiencing it personally would give you a wonderful idea on how the Muslims endure these 29 days of fasting for the sake of Allah. (Again, you don’t push yourself too hard; if you cannot endure a whole day without food or water, you can always start with half-day fasting. Everything is made easy in Islam).
4. Offer some help for exhausting tasks
Maybe most Muslims would deny becoming weak and unable to do strenuous tasks when fasting, but it’s always the natural way things go. If you have an empty stomach, you will certainly feel weaker physically. And so, as a concern non-Muslim friend, you can always offer them help in some ways. If you saw them along the road, carrying some very heavy things (assuming you do not have anything urgent up your shoulders), approach them and offer some help. In shaa Allah, your Muslim friend will surely appreciate that kind of kindness.
5. Help them be reminded of Ramadhan
Even Muslims forget what they should do and should not do while fasting. If you have some knowledge of what a Muslim should do (pray on time, read the Qur’an) and should not do (listening/participating with no-good talks, staring intently at the opposite sex), then you have the right sense to remind them too. Ask them how many pages of the Qur’an did he finished today, how many voluntary prayers in the Masjid (Mosque), etc. Maybe this is supposed to be a Muslim’s task to remind him in the first place, but having another person reminding him is always a great help.
What you should avoid:
I only have two things in this list. So far, I only found these two on the list that one should avoid (as much as he or she can) during Ramadhan:
1. Avoid eating in front of fasting Muslims
Muslims who are fasting would usually avoid food-places like restaurants. But there will always come a time that they cannot avoid it at all (for example in lunch meetings). If you are aware that one of your companions is a fasting Muslim, you can always try to eat somewhere else first as a respect to your friend. But if things are not on your control, at least ask your Muslim companion if it’s okay to eat in front of him or her (I am pretty sure he or she will say “Sure, its fine with me” :)
2. Avoid mingling with a Muslim of the opposite sex
Talking and mingling with the opposite sex is a normal day-to-day happening in a non-Muslim’s life. This might sound weird for non-Muslims, but this is something that a Muslim should avoid doing—not just in Ramadhan, but in the other normal days as well. I cannot talk about the reasons why because it would need a lot more than just a single write-up with a short discussion. I would just give emphasis on the notion that during Ramadhan, one of the things that would nullify a Muslim’s fasting is through untoward intentions for the opposite sex. And to avoid these from happening, the simplest way is to avoid mingling with the opposite sex unless highly necessary.
If you have this comfy, hug-all-friends kind of personality, try avoiding what you usually do (hugging or clinging to the arm of a friend of opposite sex, even if it may not mean anything to you). Muslims are really not comfortable with such :)
Lastly, RESPECT EACH OTHER
This last thing on my list is the most important of all and applies for both the Muslims and non-Muslims. Having different faiths and beliefs would never be a reason for anyone to be misunderstood and create trouble to the other group. When there is tolerance and respect, everything will come into place. Respecting each other’s beliefs, being open-minded and understanding them is the ultimate ingredient in living harmoniously with anybody, whatever their beliefs may be.
Again, I am reiterating that I am no scholar in Islamic ruling and I only know what little basic things about our religion. This post is intended merely to help those who wanted to know more about Ramadhan and Islam and what they have to know about this month’s importance to the Muslims. If you may find some errors in this post, something that is contradicting with what you heard or learned form a real scholar, please do not hesitate to inform me that I may correct them. I am already asking an apology for those shortcomings I may have.
I am praying to Allah that He may guide us all to the right path and reward us for every good deed that we do. May He forgive us and may He allow us to receive his bountiful blessings in this coming Ramadhan and the next one to come. Ameen.