Ramadan: Answers Before You Ask
When it comes to questions about Ramadan, I have heard them all, but there are a handful that are pretty common. As we celebrate this year, let’s take a look at some of the frequently asked questions about Ramadan.
I should preface this by saying that I am not an Islamic scholar and that there are many other places where you can read about Ramadan and Islam. Some of my favorites are Omar Suleiman, Suhaib Webb and, for comedy, Mo Amer.
That said, here are some answers to basic questions you may have.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a holiday that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. For Muslims, it is a month of fasting, prayer, self-reflection and community service.
Can I eat in front of my Muslim friends during Ramadan?
Of course. Your Muslim friend knows that you are not fasting for Ramadan. Actually, it is a benefit for your Muslim friend if you eat in front of them because every time a Muslim is presented with an opportunity to eat and they do not do so during the month of Ramadan, they get increased blessings. So you are actually benefiting your Muslim friend if you eat in front of them.
How long do you fast for each day?
Sunrise to sundown. It’s sunlight only. So in Denver, that means between roughly 4:15 a.m. and 8:15 p.m. Every single year, someone asks me, “How do you not eat for 30 days?” And I say, “I don’t know. I’ve never not eaten for 30 days.”
That brings me to the best part of Ramadan – the iftars (breaking of the fast).
Every single night during Ramadan, there is an absolute food fest called an iftar. You can go to any mosque at sunset and they’re going to have chicken, rice, lamb, seafood, pizza and many other types of delicious food.
Muslims gather in mosques or go to each other’s houses for gigantic feasts because of the shared fast all day. You eat, and you laugh, and you drink to your heart’s content before doing additional prayers and going home to rest.
How long is Ramadan and does it happen at the same time every year?
Ramadan is 30 days long and moves up about 10 days every year. Early in my career, Ramadan took place during football season. It was hard for me to fast during the season, and if you do not fast due to difficulty (age, pregnancy, travel, illness), you are encouraged to feed a homeless person or a hungry person for every day you didn’t fast and to make it up later on in the year.
What are Muslims supposed to do during Ramadan?
Aside from fasting during the day, Ramadan is a time for Muslims to return to their priorities. You’re encouraged, as a Muslim, to:
- Read the entire Qur’an (holy book)
- Give to charity
- Watch your tongue regarding swearing or gossip
- Mend relationships
- Reconnect with friends
- Forgive others
In fact, in reading the Qur’an during Ramadan, you get a benefit for every letter you read. I could spend 45 minutes or an hour reading Qur’an and, hopefully, receive blessings for each and every letter of every word that I read.
As mentioned above, you are encouraged to give to charity – 1.5% of post-tax income. So, Ramadan presents a great opportunity to give back to the community and to help those less fortunate than yourself.
What foods do you eat to maintain your nourishment all day?
As I always say, once a lineman, always a lineman.
Food is paramount to me. I often build my entire day with food in mind and, especially during Ramadan, I need foods that bring me energy, hydration, and the ability to persevere for 12-plus hours.
As a husband, a father, a broadcaster and a speaker, I have to find foods that build me and sustain me. Here are a few of my go-to Ramadan foods:
MCT oil – This flavorless oil can be added to anything. One of the things that gets me when I fast is what I call “dry brain.” It just feels like my brain literally runs out of juice. MCT oil gives you fats for your brain that sustain you throughout the day.
Coconut water – I have to thank Husain Abdullah, my former teammate with the Chiefs, for this one. I was struggling through Ramadan one year and Husain said, “Man, you don’t use any coconut water?” In a dehydrated voice, I responded, “No, no I don’t.” He turned me onto it that day. And now I benefit from how coconut water gives you the potassium you need to get through the day.
Honey – Honey delivers a dose of longer energy. It gives you sugar that gets digested over time. It allows you to have tremendous energy and does wonders for your muscles. It helps me, as much as anything, get through the daily fast.
Protein – Protein helps your brain. It helps your body function, so I try to eat protein bars and drink protein shakes each morning. A couple of years ago, I sent my friend a NutriBullet and some protein powder at the beginning of Ramadan, because your brain and your muscles need protein each and every day, including when you fast.
Do children fast during Ramadan?
Typically, at the age of puberty, children are invited to fast. Sometimes children will start with a one-week fast, or even one day.
And what happens?
They love the iftars and the community bonding so much that they want to continue participating. And at the end of Ramadan, kids get gifts as though it was Christmas or Hanukkah. Kids may be hesitant at first, but by the end of Ramadan, they usually love it.
If you know any Muslim kiddos, a card or small gift at the end of Ramadan makes a world of difference to your Muslim friends.
What does Ramadan mean to you?
For me, Ramadan is all about appreciation.
When was the last time you were thankful for a glass of water? When was the last time you were thankful that you had the opportunity to have your favorite food or snack when you want it?
You think you like a chocolate Frosty from Wendy’s now? I’ll tell you what, at 8:03 p.m. during Ramadan, you’ve never tasted something so good in your life.
When do you appreciate the choices that you are able to make?
Do you really appreciate that cup of coffee you drink every morning? Do you appreciate the ability to drink coffee whenever you want each day?
Do you appreciate the ability to go to lunch when you can?
You become thankful for all of these things.
Along the lines of appreciation, we, as Muslims, are encouraged to talk to our siblings every three days. As a result, I appreciate my siblings more during this month. I know more about their lives. We invite friends over, and in this way we experience, identify, and celebrate our community.
For these 30 days, I appreciate and value all of the different things I am able to do in life. I appreciate the incredible amounts of love and acceptance, and I go out of my way to show love and appreciation to all of the people in my life.
People like you!
Plus, Ramadan helps break habits!
In addition to increased appreciation during Ramadan, this month also brings the opportunity for breaking habits.
Habits are hard to break, and the reasons to do so are even harder to find. I chew tobacco, and I know it is not good for me. I do not know why I continue to chew tobacco every day, but when I give it up for Ramadan, I appreciate that I am not chewing – and so does my wife.
In this way, some of my co-workers at the radio station have joined me in Ramadan. Some stopped drinking alcohol, another stopped smoking.
These are some of the key reasons why Ramadan is special to me. But to each Muslim, he or she finds a special meaning in Ramadan and a unique purpose. So please take this opportunity to ask your Muslim friends about Ramadan and why it is special to them.