Things non-Muslims should know during Ramadan

The month of Ramadan began for more than 1 billion Muslims around the world. That’s about 25 per cent of the world’s population who will engage in the largest communal fast the world sees each year. Muslims will fast from sunup to sundown and that includes abstaining from food, drink, alcohol, marital relations and other vices, such as smoking, and participating more in prayer and giving during the month.

In some countries, where the dominant faith is other than Muslims, they may not know proper etiquette to employ with their Muslim friends or co-workers during the holy month.


Eat and Drink

Muslims observing Ramadan are allowed to eat and drink after sunset until sunrise, but not during the daytime, not even a sip of water. That doesn’t mean followers of Islam expect non-Muslims to refrain from eating during the day. They expect to see others eating and drinking without apology. But, it’s helpful to be mindful of midday office potlucks, lunch-and-learn meetings or after-work food and drink-related social invites during the holy month, and don’t take offence if your Muslim co-worker asks for a rain check upon invitation if the event is held before sundown.


If a non-Muslim is invited to the after-sundown iftar, or the breaking of the fast meal, try to go. It’s a large communal meal and the more the merrier. A large meal is served after sunset and everyone is ready to eat and share the joy of Allah.


If your partner or best friend is a Muslim and fasting for Ramadan, you may feel pressured to try out the fast and follow along for the month. But it’s not required, and it will not offend your Muslim contacts if you don’t follow the fast for 30 days. If travelling overseas to a mostly Muslim country during Ramadan, non-Muslims may be legally expected to follow the fast, however, depending on the country.

Weight loss

Fasting for Ramadan may result in pounds lost or gained at the end of the month, depending on the person and how much they’re eating after sundown. Ramadan is not about weight loss, it’s about connecting with God. If speaking with a Muslim about Ramadan and fasting, remember the observance is not about losing weight and isn’t an equal or proper comparison.

Happy Ramadan

Muslims love when their holidays are acknowledged. If you have a Muslim friend, wish them a happy Ramadan, or “Ramadan Mubarak.” You can also say, “Ramadan Kareem,” which means “blessed Ramadan.” When Ramadan concludes after 30 days with the Eid al-Fitr celebration, it’s appropriate to say, “Eid Mubarak,” which means “Happy Eid.”


Not every Muslim fast for Ramadan, especially if they’re too young, sick or elderly, pregnant or breast-feeding. Don’t assume if you see a Muslim not fasting, it means they’re spiritually checked out for the month or not practising their faith. They may have a medical reason for not participating.


Ramadan does not start on the same day each year. It moves around the year depending on the Islamic lunar calendar and can fall in any season. It’s held in the ninth month of the calendar each year beginning with the sighting of a new moon, declared by leaders in each nation.

Happy Days

The month of Ramadan is happy and joyous, and most are entering into the fasting season in good spirits. It’s a time for prayer, connection, service, community and worship. More than a billion Muslims are fasting together around the world in brotherly communion. So don’t assume your Muslim friends or co-workers will be sombre, or “hangry” simply because they haven’t eaten all day.

Prayer time

Prayer is especially important during Ramadan, and many Muslims spend more time at the mosque during the month. The last 10 days of Ramadan, which includes the Night of Power on the 27th day, are believed to be even more important. The Night of Power is when the Prophet Mohammad received his first revelation of the Quran, so many Muslims will pray around the clock in the final days hoping to receive additional blessings from God. Be aware that Muslims will be praying throughout the day, and may need to step away or leave for prayer time during the month.


Observing Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, so its practice is considered significant and rewarding. So, for those who aren’t familiar with the traditions, it’s permissible to ask questions. Muslims are happy to share the reasons for the fast with anyone interested in asking for details.

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