Cape Town – It's that time of the year again where about 1.6 billion Muslims around the world observe the holy month of Ramadaan. It's a time for inner reflection, self-control and an abundance of questions from friends.
To Muslims, it's a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. Fasting, the fourth "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam, has numerous benefits.
Every year Muslims hear the same questions, statements and exclamations about Ramadaan/fasting because somehow many people are still under the impression that it's only about staying without food.
Here are the answers to questions and statements non-Muslims ask and say every time Ramadaan comes around.
Do you lose weight?
Personally, I do not. How do you lose weight when the samoosas, half-moons or cakes are staring you in face, asking to be eaten at sunset? On a serious note though: It isn't about weight loss. It is a special time to work on spirituality and getting closer to Allah. A time of discipline, compassion and self-control.
What? Not even water?
For the millionth time, not even water. We won't get dehydrated. Typically a human can survive for three to four days without water.
Are you sure I can eat around you?
Dude. I have been fasting for a very long time. Seeing you eat will not make me give in, even if you are eating a gatsby. As I have said previously, a huge part of Ramadaan is about self-control. This self-control does not only apply to food, which brings me to the next question...
How can anyone stay without sex for a whole month?
Abstinence and self-control is possible. Besides, why would you even kiss someone when fasting? Bad breath during Ramadaan is not a joke. It's sort of like having morning breath all day, every day. A married couple may have sex at night but they would need to take a full bath before starting the fast the next day.
A whole month?!
Yes, a lunar month to be precise. Technically speaking, a lunar month is the amount of time it takes for the Moon to pass through each of its phases (new moon, half, full moon), and then return back to its original phase. In other words, Ramadaan starts on the new moon and ends at the sighting of the next new moon. It's approximately 29 days. It isn't that bad. You get used to it after a while.
"If you swear, do you break your fast?"
It wouldn't be the best thing to do during a holy month. Apart from staying without food, one's mind must be clear and bad words/thoughts should be off your tongue and mind.
"If you swallow your spit do you break your fast?"
It can't be helped, so no it doesn't.
But what about the children, elderly and sick people? Making them fast is so cruel.
Firstly, don't be so dramatic. Secondly, children, elderly and sick people are not allowed to fast, as it will impact negatively on their health.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women also have the option not to fast.
Women who are menstruating do not fast. Lastly, people who are travelling have the option to either fast or not to fast.
"Do you break your fast with dates?"
It's somewhat of a tradition to break fast with dates – date and water and then go ahead with the samoosas and pies. It is believed that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) enjoyed the fruit and chose to break fast with this. Therefore besides health benefits, it may also have spiritual benefits. * Cue bad jokes about having a date every day of the fast. *
How many hours do you fast?
In simpler terms, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset therefore it varies around the world. South African Muslims will fast approximately 12 hours this year. However, in parts of Europe, a person would fast for up to 18 hours in 2018.