No, not even water: A guide to Ramadan for non-Muslims

0:00

Not sure what Ramadan is all about? Here's why many Muslims fast during the month.

More than a billion people around the world are observing Ramadan by fasting during daylight hours for the month. 

For the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar (May 16 to June 15 in 2018) Muslims abstain from eating and drinking and increase prayer and charity. 

The holy month is a time of spiritual reflection and fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. 

If you’ve been wondering why your Muslim friend or work colleague has suddenly gone AWOL during lunch breaks or quietly moving a metre away from talking to you, it's probably because of Ramadan.

So, you don’t eat for a month?

No, it’s not like that. Basically, from the time the sun rises until the sun sets you don't eat or drink anything. Not even water.

Water? Are you serious?

Yup. But when the sun sets, it’s all systems go.

Is it hard?

Sure, you get hungry - and thirsty. But that’s kind of the point.

Ramadan is a challenge, but for many people, it’s also about understanding the suffering of the less fortunate.

Donating to the poor is encouraged (and at the end of the month Muslims are required to give a portion of their wealth to the less fortunate). It’s also about cleansing the soul and reconnecting with faith.

For some – especially in the West - it’s more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Time zone advantages also make fasting much easier for Australians, who only fast for about 10 hours. This is compared to some Europeans who’ll fast for up to 19 hours (this will change years later, but for now, YAASSS STRAYA).

Is it ok if I eat in front of a fasting person?

Sure. But please excuse the longing stares at your food and occasional, accidental drool.

If you suddenly walk up to a fasting friend or colleague and they move away – it’s for your own good. Because no amount of tooth brushing is getting rid of that halitosis. 

Does everyone have to do it?

Nope. Children, elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding women and those who are ill are all exempt.

Do you lose weight?

No. It isn’t like The Biggest Loser. Chances are you will gain a few kilos from all the eating-at-night.

But hey, that’s not stopping people from doing a Sonny Bill Williams-style Ramadan and hitting the gym.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch