Day 1: What is Ramadan and WHAT DO I SAY?!

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably been inundated with my many posts and excitement about Ramadan. And, trust me, I’m not the only one. Many Muslims (I’d say majority, if not all) are excited about this time of year. It can be difficult to explain to a non-Muslim WHY a person would abstain from food and drink for 17 hours a day for 29 or 30 days during the summer, but I’m going to try anyway :P.

Since I’m a writer and most of my followers are writers, I tried to come up with a way for most people to understand. The best analogy I can come up with is Ramadan is to Muslims as NaNoWriMo is to authors.

For non-writers, it is difficult to understand why a person would voluntarily give themselves added stress. Why would someone WANT to write 50,000 words in 30 days, complain about it the entire time, cry, pull their hair out, curse their insanity? And why does NaNoWriMo rarely work in any month other than November? It’s the community. It’s the knowledge that you’re not the only one in the world doing it. There are hundreds or people in your state, across the nation, and throughout the world sharing this moment, this goal with you.

That, my friends, is what Ramadan is for us. Or, at least for me. No matter what is going on in my life, in the world, I live knowing there is a community of which I am a part of that encircles the world. The fighting stops, the differences become insignificant, and the people come together.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The calendar is a cycle of 12 months. However, since it is a lunar calendar it is about 10/11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. (We’ll do the months and days of the week in another post.)

Ramadan is considered a holy month because it is believed to be the month in which the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). According to tradition, this is also the month when Satan and his minions are locked up in Hell in order to prevent them from deceiving and misleading Muslims. Therefore, Ramadan is the best month to do as much good in the world as possible.

What are the benefits of Ramadan and fasting?

Ramadan comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst” and “sun-baked ground.” Through fasting, a Muslim experiences hunger and thirst, and thus can gain the understanding of how the less fortunate feel. By fasting a Muslim excludes his or herself from foul language and unacceptable behavior. (This is usually why Muslims cut back on a lot of activities or outings such as going to the movies since it’s never clear what you’ll see or hear.) Through fasting, the body and mind are cleansed and a break is taken from usual habits.

Reader Question: What do I say? How do I wish you a happy Ramadan?

Happy Ramadan is more than fine. I can almost guarantee, especially with all the drama and misunderstandings currently in the world, a non-Muslim person who acknowledged Ramadan and what will be accomplished within the month in any way will be well received. If you want the Arabic greeting, we usually say Ramadan Mubarak at the start of the month which translates to “Ramadan Greetings”. (Some also use Ramadan Kareem which means “Ramadan is generous” and is basically a well-wishing for the month.)

New Yorkers aren’t so bad!

  • I’m taking my first summer class EVER. It’s a Tudor-Stuart England course for my History M.A. Super nerd that I am, I’m excited about this class. This morning, however, the professor became very flustered which confused US because class didn’t even start yet.Turns out, my old-school Irish professor who also happens to be of the Order of Franciscans, felt bad because the day before he didn’t wish anyone in his a happy Ramadan. (There are about 10 people in the class and I’m the only Muslim. Not being presumptuous; I’ve had class with these people before.) He also said if anyone observing needs to leave the class for a few minutes or put their head down, it was totally ok. He’s really nice and I’m loving the class so far. But, I just wanted to say that this is definitely not something to feel bad about and Muslims are not looking for special treatment. This is something we do of our own choosing and belief.
  • Then, after class I was sitting on the steps on of one of the buildings while texting and professor was leaving for the day. I’ve seen him around, but I’ve never had him and I don’t know his name. But, he stopped mid-convo as he was walking, looked at me, smiled, and said, “Happy Ramadan!”

*I tried to keep the explanations clear and concise. If there’s anything you want me to go into with more detail, have a suggestion, or a question please feel free to leave a comment (or email)!

**Also, thank you everyone on Twitter, Facebook, and who emailed me greetings. I really appreciated it and it made me feel special 🙂 My little community it growing! ❤

Tomorrow we’ll explore fasting and its aspects!

– PS

17 thoughts on “Day 1: What is Ramadan and WHAT DO I SAY?!

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I am friends with several muslims now and wasn’t sure how to recognize the holiday they are celebrating right now! Off to wish them a Happy Ramadan! And to you too! 🙂

  2. I have a question! I noticed that after you write the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), you write (PBUH). I am assuming this is a sign of respect or some form of prayer. I was wondering why it is done and what it means. I read through all the posts I missed while in Australia and loved them! I know we have been friends for a long time and I often asked questions. I learned so much though and am very happy =)

  3. Since Muslims live all over the world, but Islam started in what is now known as Saudi Arabia, they may not agree as to which country’s first moon sighting marks the start of the month.

  4. Pingback: What is Fasting and Should I Offer Food/Drink? | Priscilla Shay, author

  5. Happy Ranadan. We can get together and talk history as my MA has a specialization in Tudor-Stuart England. Glad to know I’m not alone. I used to keep ‘time’ for one of our players when I played pick-up soccer so he would know when to step away and pray. Used to worry about him playing while fasting, but he was always alright.

    • Thank you! =] Never alone. I bounce around in history anyway. Chock full of random tidbits.

      Yeah, you just have to know your personal limit. It’s not supposed to cause health issues. If you need to eat or drink, by all means.

  6. I loved this post! I look forward to reading the other ones in your series, and Happy (belated) Ramadan. 🙂

    PS. Congrats on your Tudor/Stuart course being open! I hope it is as amazing as it sounds. ^_^

    • Thanks, Norma! Not belated 😛 We started today.

      I know, me too! Only problem is..I know most of what he’s said so far based on my own research for stories lol

  7. Priscilla, these posts are so helpful! Years ago I got a master’s degree in Conflict Transformation and was one of only 3 North Americans in a cohort of about 30 graduate students (which included Muslims, Jews, Christians, animists, Hindus…. everybody). I didn’t know what to ask, how to ask, how to respond, how not to offend… and that was in an environment were everybody could pretty much rely on mutual respect. Keep spreading the light–ignorance and fear are the enemies. Ramadan Kareem!

    • Thank you, Grace! I really hope if anyone has questions they feel comfortable asking. I don’t offend easily and I’m more than happy to share what I know/what I’m learning. =]

  8. Pingback: Writer Wednesday: Celia Breslin | Priscilla Shay, author

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