The Non-Muslim Guide to Fasting During Ramadan

Barbara Castleton, M.A.
7 min readMar 24, 2018

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.

MOBRUK RAMADAN (مبروك على رمادا )to all my Muslim family and friends. My heart is with you as you celebrate this glorious month!

Could you do it? Or rather, could you do without any food or water for 14–17 hours per day for an entire month? Or even a week?

Hassan II Mosque — Casablanca, Morocco

Across the globe, from approximately March 10 to April 9, 2024, close to one billion people will not be ingesting any food or drinking liquids from an hour before sunrise until sunset. These folks aren’t part the world’s chronically hungry, nor members of some weird diet cult. They are Muslim. One billion Muslims will fast during the month of Ramadan because they believe that Allah has willed it so. In verses 183–191 in the chapter Al Bakara of the Qur’an, Allah avows that devout believers must fast from “the break of dawn” until sundown during Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar:

“[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.”

Strangely, along with those who keep the fast as a measure of devotion, tens of thousands of others fast out of solidarity with Muslim family members, friends, or are those whose curiosity asks how a whole sixth of the planet can maintain a singular idea for 29 days.

I was one of that auxiliary group for many years, making the choice to commit myself to a complete fasting experience while trying to keep the spirit of the fast in my words, deeds, and thoughts as well. I am not Muslim, nor have I ever been, but nevertheless, the experience was an invaluable lesson in standing for something and gaining in both humility and gratitude.

Ramadan can be both a social and spiritual experiment, regardless of one’s belief system. First, it must be admitted that fasting is a challenge. Without the pull of…

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Barbara Castleton, M.A.

Writer, teacher, seasonal ex-pat— my life is both an intentional and serendipitous circumstance. Mottos — “Buy the ticket, and go!” “Offer help where you can.”