How To Support Muslim Friends And Colleagues During Ramadan

When you’re not familiar with the sentiment and the meaning behind Ramadan, it can be hard to know how to navigate the conversations around it, especially when you’re around colleagues and friends who will be observing.

If you want to be supportive without accidentally coming across as insensitive – I’d say that’s already a very good start to begin with. On behalf the Muslim community, I’m here to advise you on exactly how to support those around you that are observing during the holy month of Ramadan.

The good news is that Ramadan, among other religious observances, is no longer “a taboo” topic to talk about – be it in a professional setting or a casual chat among friends. Thankfully, we’ve moved past the times when there was barely any celebration or visibility on what is probably the biggest event in every Muslim’s calendar. With this in mind, you’re definitely more than welcome to bring up or engage in conversations around Ramadan, without having it look “weird” or “out of place.” And that’s exactly why the following tips are of the utmost importance:

Show curiosity

Don’t be afraid to ask your Muslim colleague or a friend about Ramadan and what it means to them, you’d be surprised at just how glad they’d be when they’re presented with an opportunity to share something so near and dear to their heart. Try to do this with a relaxed approach and don’t bombard them with a series of potentially insensitive questions and comments like, “Why would you put your body through this voluntarily?” or: “this is wild, I’d never sign up to this.” Instead, try to start with something simple to give them an opportunity to open up, for example: “What does Ramadan mean to you?”

Don’t feel “sorry for them”

As a Muslim, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something along the lines of: “I’m sorry you have to go through this,” or “I feel so bad for you,” or “you poor thing.” Having spoken to a few of my Muslim friends, we’ve all agreed that although we don’t really tend to take these comments to heart, it certainly becomes a bit frustrating when they pile up over time. Let’s clear this up once and for all: Ramadan is not a torturous task.

On the contrary, Muslims very much look forward to it every year. It’s a time for celebrating community, family, self-reflection, mindfulness and so much more. All of this actually puts us in a very positive mindset – so you can imagine how hearing such “sorry” comments might be de-motivating, and at times, frustrating. Granted, I’m not here to deny the fact that going without drinking and eating isn’t hard, but what many people don’t know is that Islam actually exempts some people from fasting who wouldn’t be able to handle it as well as others, including those on their period, pregnant or ill.

Actionable acts of support

Whether your aim is to support your colleague or a friend to show that you’re genuinely there for them, there are definitely more than a few actions that you can start with.

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