The Non-Muslim Guide to Fasting During Ramadan

Many people are curious about Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. If you want to join nearly a billion devout Muslims in the fast, for whatever reason, read how to do it correctly and safely.

Hassan II Mosque — Casablanca, Morocco

Why do it?

Every person will have his or her own reason for attempting a Ramadan fast. Some of the reasons offered by other non-Muslims who have kept company with their fasting friends and family include the following:

When to fast

Fasting begins well over an hour before sunrise, so don’t be mislead by the times given for sunrise in the newspaper. To really find out when the fast should begin, you need to know the Muslim prayer times. Discovering these is not a problem. Enter islamicfinder.org to find, for example, that Fajr, or Sehar, the beginning of the fast, will be at 4:53am in Seattle on April 13, 2021. Finally, Maghreb, the end of the fast or the breaking of the fast, is at 7:56pm on the same day. Look up prayer times by using your zip code. Remember, too, as a volunteer participant, ultimately the beginning time and ending times are up to you.

Typical spread to break the fast — Morocco

The don’ts:

  • Don’t fast if you are ill, take medications that require food or liquid, are diabetic, or have any condition which puts your health at risk.
  • Don’t fast if you are pregnant. Some Muslim women do fast, but they are discouraged from doing so since the health of the baby must be the first consideration.
  • Women who are having their period are told not to fast, since their bio-chemistry is in flux and they may become anemic. I have known many Muslim women who fast regardless, possibly because they don’t want to advertise the fact that they are menstruating.
  • Don’t fast if you will be doing intense manual labor out of doors during the hottest months of the year. In Marrakesh, Morocco, where the August temperatures can soar to 115F, it is known that laborers end their fast very early, around 4:00pm when Ramadan falls during the summer and early fall simply because not to do so might prove fatal. There is no spiritual or other gain if one’s health is at risk.

The dos:

  • Drink a glass of water in the last moments before starting to fast.
  • Make a game out of the growling stomach. Mine was “George”. After a few days, George calmed down considerably.
  • Plan a nap, a walk, or an easy workout in the couple of hours between returning from work and breaking the fast.
  • Eat a variety of foods when breaking the fast, protein, fat, and carbs. One of my favorite meals is a hearty soup, crepes, dates, honey, and eggs.
  • Do plan on losing a couple of pounds. Weight gain during Ramadan may require a rethink of food choices and amounts.
  • Start cooking or preparing the f’tour meal well before time to break the fast. Have dates, or figs, or a pound cake ready, along with tea or coffee, so that something tasty is immediately available when the gong sounds, the cannon goes off, or the clock alarm dings. Don’t forget to drink a large glass of water. To thoroughly enjoy the family gathering once everyone sits down to eat, prepping ahead eases the transition. After a bite to break the fast, there is ample time to finish cooking before the main meal. Then, prepare a small late evening meal to have just before bed.

Writer, ESL instructor, editor, traveler, seasonal ex-pat— my life is both an intentional and serendipitous circumstance. Motto — “Buy the ticket, and go!”

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