By Tasneem Moolla
30 June 2014
Ramadan is the month of peace, spirituality, and personal sacrifice. One of the main facets of this month is that of fasting, which is undertaken by millions of Muslims around the world. As Muslims, we have a deep understanding of this blessed month. However, being part of a bigger picture, we interact with people of other faiths during the time that we observe fasting and carry out various other religious acts, specific to Ramadan.
We cannot ignore those around us, people who follow other religions and often wonder what they understand of this month. It was interesting to delve into the minds of a diverse background of people and discover their thoughts on Ramadan.
Some of the questions we posed were with regard to their understanding of this month and its culture; whether they feel Muslims act differently during Ramadan; the similarities regarding fasting in their faiths; and if they feel that there is religious tolerance towards Muslims during this time.
Whitney, from Texas says:
"It is a time when Muslims should fast during the daylight hours as required by the Qur'an for Muslims of all ages who do not have a medical condition to prevent it. I think the reason for the fast is to teach patience and prepare for the New Year, if I remember correctly,"
Other than Muslims not eating during the day, Whitney has never noticed any huge changes in the way Muslims act during this month. She thinks that fasting could cause some people to be more aggressive, but have never witnessed such an incident. A close friend of hers converted to Islam several years ago and taught her a lot about the Muslim culture and faith.
"I know that observing Ramadan is important to my friend's faith". Being a Christian, Whitney tells us that there is no mandatory time of fasting in Christianity. However, many Christians do choose to fast periodically in order to focus on spirituality, instead of physical needs.
"I think the reason for fasting is probably similar is all faiths", she adds. Regarding religious tolerance towards Muslims during this month, Whitney feels that there is probably less tolerance because people in general do not understand why anyone would want to go without food during the day, and people do not like to make accommodations.
Sharon, of Cape Town (South Africa):
Sharon follows the New Apostolic faith. She believes that Ramadan is a time in which the Muslim community fasts for those who are poor and underprivileged, the ones who go without food. She feels that it is a show of respect to them.
"Some of the Muslims who fast are happy and joyful, but some can be terribly miserable and rude", she remarks. To her, the Muslims do act a bit different during the time of fasting.
However she believes that they should not get upset and rude, but are supposed to be placid during this time and give to the poor. Generally though, Sharon has observed that the Muslim community is more peaceful during the month of Ramadan. According to her, the culture of Ramadan is to be generous during this time and be in the spirit of giving.
Jacob, from Denver:
Jacob does not know much about Ramadan. "I think it’s about when Gabriel appeared to the prophet", he says. In his religion, which is Orthodox Christianity fasting is required for Lent, although he chooses to fast twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays.
He hopes that people have tolerance to those of other faiths. Jacob says that he has never felt imposed upon by other Muslims. Although he does not know much about this month, he is very enthusiastic to learn more about it. "I think that they have a right to worship the Creator in all things", he concludes.
Dan, from Sweden:
Dan says that Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an was given to Prophet Mohammed. The Muslims, who he knows, fast and use to read the Qur'an during this month.
Regarding their behavior Dan says, "I think they act peaceful, as always". Dan tells us a bit about Christianity and fasting: "In Christianity we also fast, but fasting in our religion is a bit different. We do not fast for a whole month.
We usually fast for a weeks or for three days, but do not break our fast in the evening. So for example, if we fast for a week, we fast for the whole week, morning, day and night (we do not break it at sunset)." Dan wishes all his Muslim friends a happy Ramadan. He smiles saying that he does not tempt his Muslim friends with food during Ramadan. As a gesture of respect towards the Muslim faith, Dan also tries to fast during some days of Ramadan.
Daniel, from USA:
In Daniel's experience Muslims very seriously observe the fast, but also express great joy during this holy month. He is of the opinion that Muslims are more peaceful during this month. He has witnessed the culture, through seeing the breaking of fast at sunset, and the family and community celebrations. Daniel is a Jew, and their most well known fast is Yom Kippur, which is one full day. He says that there are several other less well-known fasts that are not well observed.
Daniel feels that in the USA there is not enough tolerance towards Muslims. "I have never found Muslims to impose their faith on others. Of course, we read reports of those that do, although this happens in other religions as well", he states.
This is just a handful of feedback from people of other faiths, regarding their thoughts on Ramadan. It is refreshing and lifts my spirits to realize that despite the negativity and hate in this world, there still exists religious tolerance and cultural similarities.
Tasneem Moolla is a Freelance Writer, South Africa