The most spiritually uplifting tradition and ritual practice Muslims enjoy is Ramadan. While there are many resources for Muslims on how to effectively plan for Ramadan, there isn’t as much information out there for well-meaning non-muslims on how to support Muslims in Ramadan.
For our non-Muslim community that wish to support their Muslim counterparts but are not entirely sure how to do this, this article provides seven tips to get you started.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the month Muslims fast (abstain from food and water) from dawn to dusk over a period of 29/30 days. Depending on the time of the year and their location, a fast may last as long as eight or sixteen hours (consider for instance, sunrise and sunset times for an European country during the winter versus the summer).
Fasting in Ramadan, called Sawm, is a pillar of Islam. For many Muslims ,it is not just abstinence from food and water but a spiritual journey to Allah. It also fosters a sense of community with both close relations and Muslims worldwide. Sadly, many Muslims do not get the support they deserve as they navigate predominantly non-Muslim spaces (workplaces, schools, associations etc.). This, sometimes, could be attributed to a lack of knowledge about the month and what Muslims seek to achieve.
In this regard, we are sharing with you some simple and easy ways through which you can support Muslims in Ramadan.
1. Do not Mock Muslims for their Ramadan practices.
We often tend to ridicule things we do not understand and religion, Islam included, has borne the brunt of much mockery. Muslims are often at the receiving end of jeering comments meant to belittle our faith.
One of my rather unsavoury and dare I say, irritating experiences during Ramadan, both as a student and employee, is having people mock the fast and then try to make light of their mockery. Some colleagues would make fun of the fact that Muslims wake up at dawn to eat a meal (sahur) before gh fast begins. They would go as far as calling it “fake fasting”. This is deeply hurtful and puts Muslims in a defensive position. Try as I might to explain things, they would persist in their stance. Different faiths are practised in their own unique ways and it is simply disrespectful to argue with or mock Muslims for eating at dawn for Ramadan.
Additionally, because Ramadan begins and ends with the citing of the moon. This may create a difference in start dates for Muslims. This should not be used to mock Muslim friends or colleagues. Instead of saying “What kind of fasting is it that people start on different days”, simply say “I have observed a difference in start dates for Ramadan, what is the reason? “. It is important to desist from insulting Islam (other religions) and Muslims (worshippers) efforts to practice their faith. If you are genuinely interested in learning about Muslims and Ramadan, talk to Muslims.
2. Have iftar (dinner) with a Muslim and learn more about Ramadan
Many Muslims enjoy eating out during Ramadan and also hosting Iftar (dinner to break the fast) parties. I always enjoy having iftar parties and eating out with friends. It is a way to check in on each other with our plans for Ramadan and the general Ramadan experience. You can invite a Muslim friend or colleague out to dinner to learn more about Ramadan. This fosters better understanding and respect.
Alternatively, if a Muslim invites you to their home for iftar, honor it and learn more about them. One of the wild misconceptions some non-Muslims have about Muslims is that our food transfers a “bad omen” unto others. This is simply false and an effort by unscrupulous people to taint relationships and religious co-existence. If you are invited by Muslim, honor it.
3. Be considerate in assigning tasks and making schedules during Ramadan
Fasting requires a change in routine due to the many activities Muslims engage in. These include observing late night prayers, congregating for sermons/lectures, joining charitable activities and having to wake up at the crack of dawn, amongst others, often means that regular day-to-day schedules are disrupted and maintaining a normal work schedule is often difficult. If your organization can allow for flexible work schedules, make this option readily available for Muslims in Ramadan. This way, they can schedule their work activities around their productive hours and leave room for spiritual activities. I truly appreciated the flexible “work from home” option my job offered me. I was able to work and maximize the benefits in Ramadan.
Further, Muslim employees who would like to take their leave in Ramadan should be allowed to do so. Ramadan can be demanding time for Muslims, especially for those who wish to take full advantage of the month. Some Muslims like to seclude themselves especially during the last ten days in a practice called ihtikaf. They spend their days in worship and remembrance of Allah. Hence, they would love the opportunity to take the time off work to reap the benefits.Taking a leave at this time will be truly beneficial.
Again, Muslims may be tired and hungry especially during late afternoons in Ramadan. Please be considerate when assigning tasks that require a lot of energy like speaking for long, managing heavy loads of work etc. If there are other individuals who can perform these tasks, it would be highly appreciated if you reassigned them.
Please check in with your Muslim colleagues when making plans. This will ensure that meetings are not scheduled for prayer times and new work schedules they have made due to Ramadan.
Many Muslims go the extra mile in Ramadan to ensure that the fast does not interfere in any way with their work activities. Even the smallest of considerations can go a long way to making life better during this month.
4. Do not judge Muslims making an effort during Ramadan.
Ramadan is a month like no other and during this time, Muslims all over strive to be better. Muslim women may start wearing modest clothes or cover their hair during this month. Muslims who engage in religiously non-conforming behavior may put a hold on these behaviors or completely quit. Please do not ask them about it or call them “Ramadan Muslims”. Every Muslim becomes better at their efforts to practice Islam in Ramadan.
Similarly, due to health conditions, some Muslims may not fast the entire period or only fast some days. Muslims who struggle with certain health conditions are not allowed to fast. Quizzing them about it would be uncomfortable. Please do not treat them differently from other Muslim colleagues or friends.
Also, women are not allowed to fast when they are on their period but make up the missed fasts after Ramadan. Some non-Muslim colleagues and friends in their effort to belittle Muslims would mockingly ask about it. Additionally, many women would rather not announce to everyone, especially men, that they are on their periods. In this climate of period shame, it can be uncomfortable.
Others would simply ask a Muslim why they are not fasting when by all indications they should be. This is unacceptable as not everyone is comfortable discussing the “why”. Some may be struggling with an illness, a woman could be pregnant etc., the reasons are often things people would only want to disclose on their own time.
5. Support Muslim charity organizations
One of the lessons learnt during Ramadan by staying away from food and drinks, is that it creates more empathetic individuals who like to give endlessly. Muslims are advised to share their food and resources with one another. They do this personally or through Muslim organizations.
There are many charitable Muslim organizations that provide food and other supplies to the needy. Some organizations in Ghana are Islamic Ummah Relief, Sadaqa Train, Sisters’ hangout, Iftar with Hally, Dr. Nawwaf Foundation, and many you can find with a simple Facebook search. You can support these organizations by volunteering with them in any capacity or by donating your resources.
Muslims are heavy consumers of groceries and food supplies, internet, clothing etc with a peak in the period of Ramadan. The least businesses or big corporations can do to support Muslims is to channel their corporate social responsibilities (CSR) activities to Muslim communities and not just limit themselves to seasons greetings.
6. Muslims as huge consumers deserve better inclusion.
Ramadan is the longest celebrated religious festival which runs for 7weeks. This presents a huge period for revenue as spending goes up. In the same way, it provides visibility for businesses as Muslims spend more hours online.
The breakdown of the entire ocassion is Pre-ramadan, Ramadan and Eid. According to Google, the pre-Ramadan period lasts for two weeks and is occupied with planning, grocery shopping, home decoration, and getting ready for visitors. With Ramadan and Eid as periods of communal activities.
In 2018, Google Insights reported that overall consumer spending surged by 53% during Ramadan. Similarly, Twitter reported that 83% of consumers are open to trying new brands. In this regard, Think with Google put together 7 Ramadan personas.
Below is the breakdown of the different kind of Muslims in Ramadan. Brands that want to engage with Muslims need to understand this group, learn about them and listen to their needs.
- The Generous giver, these individuals do a lot of charity work. They support Muslims in Ramadan by spending their money on charities and giving donations.
- The foodie is always buying or trying different meals. Personally, I watch a lot of cooking shows and try different iftar meals during Ramadan. MaggiNigeria tops my chart as they have consistently produced relevant African meals. The success of the marketing by Maggi Nigeria has resulted in running it for the past 5years.
- The Binge watcher could be targeted by social media entrepreneurs. They watch endless shows and videos on social media. Unsurprisingly, social media use has been accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic which presented new channels for communicating. Facebook, Instagram, Clubhouse, TikTok, Youtube etc. are avenues you can find Muslims. They utilize these platforms to learn, connect and be entertained, especially during Ramadan. This means long period of marketing potential.
- For hospitality businesses, the Traveller is your target. These are usually preachers and Muslim scholars who travel for sermons. Some Muslims also travel to Muslim countries or specifically Saudi Arabia to spend the full Ramadan or perform umrah. Similarly, immigrant Muslims visit their home country to observe the month.
- Gatherings host are individuals or organizations that host iftar parties, Ramadan lectures/workshops etc. Equally, event planners and organizers can work with this persona . Modest Code usually organizes iftar dinners/workshops for sisters. Be on the look out for one this year. If you would like to support us, please contact us.
- Finally, the Gamer. These Muslims will spend hours engaging in gaming activities. Businesses can support Muslims in Ramadan by providing products and services that cater to their needs in the month and beyond.
Gould Studio suggests that, brands marketing should focus on communal activities such as iftar, connecting with relations through voice and video calls etc. Above all, the goal is for brands to connect with Muslims and not just sell to them. This is a great way to support Muslims in Ramadan.
7. Schools should allow Muslim students to observe Ramadan.
It is simply disheartening that Muslims in certain countries have to fight for a basic right to practise their religion. In many places, Muslim students cannot wear the head covering, pray five times a day or even fast in Ramadan.
My experience of Ramadan in high school as a boarding student is not pleasant. My school did not make provisions for Muslims to fast and our personal efforts to mobilize was also constrained by “school rules”.
We shared the little we had in our personal food boxes for our sahur (dawn meal) since we were not allowed to store dining hall food. We then advocated for our food to be stored for us by the school which resulted in a humiliating experience. Our dining hall prefect assisted for a few days before that option was also shot down. As we were dealing with this disappointment, we were forced to sit in the dining hall during meals though we informed authorities that we were fasting the month.
This is simply unacceptable and should not be happening. These negative experiences are unhealthy and go to mar our relationship with non-Muslims. A simple adjustment and support would have gone a long way to make the school experience a lot better.
For these reasons, we need non-Muslims to support a basic human right and understand that Muslims are not a threat. School authorities and other stakeholders should be kind and supportive of their Muslim students. Undoubtedly, there are individuals and organizations that provide this support.
To conclude, we hope that these tips would be helpful to friends of the Muslim community. However, just like any group, Muslims are not a monolith and all these may not apply to every Muslim and hence it is always important to get to know the individual or group of people you plan to support.
If you would like more information, download our Ramadan information pack!
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