Learning about cultural differences can foster understanding, bring people together, and encourage bonds and solidarity as human beings. For Muslims, Ramadan is an important time and this joyful month cannot be a better time to extend its spirit to our non-Muslim friends as well as the overall community.
Etiquette & Guide
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Before we delve into how to share the Ramadan spirit, it is crucial that you are equipped with the proper etiquette. When explaining about Islam and Ramadan, conduct yourselves in a high excellent manner, keep it simple (because Islam is simple, so don’t make it complicated), and direct to the point.
Show utmost respect at all times to your guest, be courteous, open, welcoming, and not defensive. Don’t probe or force your guest to ask a question, nor brag or exaggerate about Ramadan - let them be comfortable with themselves. Often non-Muslim can be shy about asking religious questions, so do be sensitive to your guest.
What Non-Muslim Need To Know About Ramadan
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Sharing Ramadan with non-Muslims begins with the ability to explain this act of worship. Non-Muslims need to know that fasting during Ramadan is the fourth Pillar of Islam obligatory for Muslims. Muslims anticipate this blessed month every year and celebrate its arrival because it is the holiest month in Islam - full of power, energy, reflections, soul-cleansing, and purification.
Ramadan is also steeped in history and traditions. In this month of Ramadan, the holy book of the Quran is revealed to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH through the angel Jibril. Muslims will fast for a month, from dawn to sunset abstaining from food, drink, and sexual activities. Muslims will increase the amount of charity, night prayers, reciting the Holy book of the Quran, and doing extra good deeds with the main aim to increase piety and God-consciousness.
The act of fasting is observed in parallel with Muslim’s normal day-to-day affairs. Therefore, it’s not an easy feat, but with fasting, Muslims ingrain a character build and a spiritual transformation. Despite this, fasting is not compulsory for kids, the elderly, sick people, travelers, pregnant ladies, breastfeeding mothers, and women during menstruation.
Ways for Ramadan Outreach to Friends And Neighbour
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There are so many ways to introduce the good aspects of Ramadan to your non-Muslim friends and neighbors. After all, Ramadan is about sharing. Do take advantage of Ramadan by engaging in communities through having conversations and dialogues. Share Ramadan experiences and build bridges with your non-Muslim friends by implementing the suggestions below:
Fasting with your friend
Share the experience together by suggesting your friend to abstain from food and drink during the daytime (even for a day or two). Remember to tell your friend to wake up for a pre-dawn meal (Suhoor) though! Or if it's too difficult, you may suggest your friend cut down on one ‘bad’ thing from their diet – such as sugar, caffeine, or cigarette for a month.
This way, empathy, and good habit can naturally build through 'fasting' such as self-control and discipline. Your friend may learn to understand when the tummy growls in the afternoon, the need for a power nap when the sugar level drops, and importantly, to experience the hunger the poor people feel.
Invite a friend with breaking fast
Since you are not having lunch with your friend, why not celebrate the end of your fast by breaking it with your friend? Share the first taste of dates (copying Prophet Mohammed PBUH who broke his Iftar this way) and the first sip of water into your body after so many hours of fasting, as you reflect on how your day goes by with the company of your friend. Check out one of many Halal Iftar buffets in town if you feel like dining out with your friend.
Host an Iftar and full dinner at home
You could cook your special meal to impress your guest or simply order in. This is also a wonderful opportunity for your friend or neighbor to get to know your family. The topic of religion may get discussed during Iftar at home but food always fosters an understanding of culture and people. Just be sure to excuse yourself for Maghreb prayer before you continue the good conversation over the dinner party.
Gifting food to neighbors
It is a normal practice that during Ramadan, Muslims tend to invest some time in cooking to celebrate Iftar. No better time to share with neighbors around your block - they would love to taste your secret family dish or the classic Ramadan rice congee/porridge (bubur as fondly called in Malay). You can also bring some dates to work as a gift. If you fancy baking during Ramadan, share freshly baked cakes or cookies with colleagues.
Do charity or community work together
Pick any charity during Ramadan and volunteer together with your non-Muslim friend. Add extra meaning and fun factors when contributing to the community hand in hand with your mate. For example, this could be donating cans of food at The Food Bank, offering help at the mosque for serving before Iftar, help to deliver or pack Ramadan food packages.
Share Ramadan joy with kids
We know that kids love festivities and Ramadan should not be excluded. Share candies, balloons, or chocolates with them. You could bring it to school if your kid or little sibling is at school.
While you perform spiritually for Ramadan, prepare the right ambiance and environment at home or work desk. This could be a simple decoration that would highlight the Ramadan spirit to let your neighbor or colleagues know you are observing Ramadan. Consider a banner or garland on your entry door, decorative prints, ornamental or star lanterns, countdown posters, and treat jars.
Going to the bazaar together
Make a point to spend time with your non-Muslim friend visiting the Ramadan bazaar. Plenty of food bazaars are held across the island. Even if this is your family’s annual Ramadan tradition, extend an invitation to your friends too. It will be an outing to be remembered.
Learning about Ramadan together
Show great appreciation if your friend or neighbor expresses interest to learn deeper about Ramadan. Always speak the truth about Islam, and if things you don’t know the answer to, the best way is to go to reliable sources as recommended below:
- Reliable body locally. For example in Singapore, the Muslim Convert’s Association of Singapore (MCAS) is the place to go. Here you can find the answer to questions such as what is Halal and why do we need to eat Halal, what is Ramadan and why do we have to fast during Ramadan.
- Question and answer services online are available and the imam of the local mosque is always happy to help too.
Based on the above, we hope you are proactive in sharing Ramadan with your friends and neighbors. Do you have other suggestions to share?
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