By Kouser Fathima
Ramzan is a much awaited month, when Muslims fast, offer special prayers, and give special charity, known as zakat. Ramzan is also the time when Muslims invite family and friends from other faiths to share the meal.
Ramzan is widely observed by Muslims the world over. However, this is also the time when we get to hear a lot of strange things about Ramzan from people of other faiths. Many non Muslims have weird ideas about Ramzan, most of which they have only heard from others with no proper verification .
“You don’t even drink water?” “Are you not even allowed to swallow your saliva?” “You are not supposed to spit, right ?” “Do you eat the whole night?” and the most common, “Do small kids also fast and are they beaten if they don’t fast?”
Every year you are bombarded with such questions. Some people are genuinely unaware of the facts, while others continue to indulge in certain misconceptions.
Yes, we don’t drink water when we fast. But we can spit and are allowed to swallow our saliva. We do enjoy our Ramzan delicacies but don’t hog the whole night. The children are definitely not forced to fast nor are they beaten if they don’t fast. Apart from children below the age of puberty, pregnant/breast feeding women, the elderly and people with medical conditions are exempted from fasting.
Our kids start fasting when they are 10/11 years, mostly during holidays. Gradually, they start getting used to it and graduate to fasting for the whole month. No one stands with a whip to force the kids to fast. Yes, they are told about the importance of fasting from a young age. They grow up seeing the family members fast and are more than eager to start fasting. It is neither forced nor a torture, as many assume .
“Do you take off from your work?” No, Muslims continue to go about with their daily routine while fasting. In Muslim countries, there is reduction in the number of working hours. But Muslims elsewhere continue to work for the prescribed hours without any exemptions. We are not given any extra privilege because we fast. But, yes, some of our kind colleagues do show extra concern. We continue to go about with our daily duties. We do get a bit tired but we don’t go on a fainting spree .
“Is Ramzan only about fasting and feasting?”
Eating various delicacies is a major attraction of Ramzan. That doesn’t imply that we fast only to feast; nor do we keep eating endlessly the whole night. We eat our sehri before the break of dawn; we don’t eat or drink anything until the Iftar time. We also avoid telling lies, fighting, cursing and backbiting. So it is more of a spiritual experience than just a physical abstinence from food and water.
Ramzan is just not about food. Ramzan is a month of reflection, piety, and spirituality. This is the month we seek forgiveness from people around us and also from the Almighty. This is a month when we reach out to our friends and family, share our blessings with the poor and the needy and when we donate generously. It is a month of mercy and peace.
So, dear non-Muslims friends, feel free to ask us about Ramzan before you go into a frenzy. You will be really surprised to hear the right answers. And, yes, we do cut our nails and have our bath daily during Ramzan. It’s not restricted to only Fridays!
Dr. Kouser Fathima is a Bangalore-based dentist who writes on issues concerning women, especially Muslim women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @kouser2012
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Masculinities in Urban India’, edited by Madhura Lohokare, Shiv Nadar University, India.