Ramadan is the holiest month of the lunar Islamic calendar, when millions of Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk. This year, Ramadan falls between April 24–May 23, and for many, it feels different from any other year. Most of us are confined to our homes and unable to break the fast with our friends over colorful meals called iftars, or join community members at the mosque for nightly prayers. If you have Muslim girls in your troop, Muslim neighbors, co-workers, or friends, there are many ways you can continue to support them. Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions and tips to create connection during Ramadan in times of social distancing, and beyond.
Nope, not even water
Though many forms of fasting exist, in the Islamic tradition, fasting looks like getting up before dawn for a meal called suhoor, not eating or drinking anything during the day, and breaking the fast at sundown. With the longer spring days in Minnesota and Wisconsin, this means we’re often fasting from about 4:30 am to 8:30 pm. Fasting is difficult but perfectly safe, and many prominent athletes continue to fast even during the World Cup and the Olympics. Those who are too young, elderly, pregnant, ill, traveling, or unable to fast healthily for other reasons are exempt from doing so. Muslims fast for many reasons: to feel closer to God, to learn patience, practice deep reflection, and empathize with those who are hungry. Ramadan is also a time of increased worship and charity.
The hardest part is usually not hunger
While it might be natural to assume that hunger is taxing, many Muslims will in fact list another factor as the most challenging aspect of Ramadan. For some, it’s thirst. For me, it’s sleep deprivation; I always tell my friends and bosses that I’ll be like a zombie this month because I’m almost never able to go back to sleep after getting up at 4 am for suhoor. For Muslims who live away from family, also like me, it can be the isolation of fasting alone, which will be especially prevalent this year with social distancing. The best way to know how to support your Muslim Girl Scouts and neighbors is by asking.
Yes, you can eat around us, but be mindful
People often feel guilty about eating in front of a fasting person. No need to feel guilty! You need to eat, and we are not starving, we are making a conscious choice to abstain from food. That being said, this might be harder for younger girls who are new to fasting or don’t want to miss out on treats. What’s most important is being intentional about planning during Ramadan. If your troop usually meets around lunchtime, try changing it up so that fasting girls aren’t singled out. If it’s unavoidable, make sure your snacks and meals can be taken home to eat later. (Save the pizza and ice cream party for another month and opt for a sack lunch instead!)
If at all possible, avoid scheduling evening events during Ramadan. Iftar is a sacred time each night after a long day of fasting and we want to be home, with friends or family, or at the mosque to break our fasts communally. So while it’s often impossible in our world to avoid all evening activities, during those, it can be courteous to build in a short break during sundown so that fasting individuals can go break their fast (have a meal ready for them to do so) and pray without having to miss out. Or better yet, incorporate an iftar into your event so that everyone can join in on great food when it’s time!
Virtual iftar? Yes!
Obviously this year looks very different than the picture I just painted. It might actually be too easy for Muslims to avoid food and social events this Ramadan. Remember the social isolation piece? Virtual iftar events are popping up across the globe, and you can easily join one to learn more about the feel of the season. Or, if you have Muslim friends either next door or across the country, you can use video conferencing tools to join them in breaking their fasts the same way folks are doing virtual happy hours and other mealtimes right now. Food insecurity is also a reality in some families, so something you can always offer is dropping off some home-cooked meals for your neighbors or connect them to a food assistance resource like Khidma.
Check in on us
Everyone will have unique needs during this time. Pandemic or not, it’s always a good idea to check in on your practicing friends during Ramadan—it will help them feel supported and seen. The conclusion of Ramadan is a big holiday called Eid al-Fitr, which lands on May 23 and 24 this year. Usually, Muslims go to the mosque in the morning to gather en masse for Eid prayer and then spend the day visiting the homes of friends and family, snacking and chatting at each stop. Likely these gatherings will not be possible this year and this is a huge sadness for the community. We may have to embrace a more Christmas-like holiday practice this year of staying indoors and enjoying quality time with close family.
This will be an adjustment, so make sure to wish your Muslim friends a very hearty “Eid Mubarak!” (Happy Eid) at the end of this month! May this season of inner reflection make us each think of the many ways we can include others more, and continue making the world a better place for all.
Additional Resources to Explore
- Listen to a podcast. Tell Them, I Am centers around Muslim stories and voices. Check out episode three: “Najma,” featuring Najma Sharif, a Somali woman who talks about her teenage, boy-crazy days growing up in Rochester, MN.
- Use a Ramadan activity plan. Ramadan is an opportune time to start to incorporate more acts of worship and gratitude to girls’ daily lives—follow this plan to help girls create acts of worship or gratitude jars.
- Practice self-care. Head to Muslim Girl’s online guide for self-care tips. This is also a great primer for volunteers and adults on how to best support their Muslim Girl Scouts.
- Deepen your connection to your faith and foster curiosity about and acceptance for all faiths. Read our past post about ways Girl Scouts can connect to their faith.
Jinath Tasnim – Jinath is a Program Coordinator with the ConnectZ program at Girl Scouts River Valleys, running staff-led troops and bringing the Girl Scout experience to traditionally underserved girls. She received her BA in geography from Macalester College and has a background in communications and multicultural education. Before Girl Scouts, Jinath worked for a human rights nonprofit (With an all-female staff of lawyers!). Jinath loves to be outside—you can find her hiking, biking, and gardening until wintertime, when it’s time to cook, host parties, and check out the Twin Cities’ theater scene.