How to be an ally to Muslims during Ramadan

Muslims who are observing Ramadan break the daily fast in the evening after sunset. (Photo by Hanan Soulaiman)

This is the time of year that Muslims in Seattle and around the world abstain from food, drink, and other worldly desires for a whole month. This month is called Ramadan.

On Monday, May 6, Muslims began their annual fast at approximately 4 a.m. Many woke up right before dawn to eat, drink, and pray.

With the sunrise, the all-day fast begins. Only when the sun sets do Muslims break their fasts with a big meal that is shared with the whole family.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. The act of abstinence is meant to serve as a reset button for Muslims. It’s an opportunity to cleanse one’s soul, mind, and body from materialistic indulgence, and desires. Overall, fasting, like any other act of worship in Islam, is meant to bring Muslims closer to God.

This should shed light on why your Muslim neighbors are looking a little tired during the day. And why our kitchen lights are on at 3 a.m. No, we are not having a party. On the contrary, we begrudgingly pull ourselves out of our snug beds to eat something simple and fulfilling before we start our fast. We also chug an immeasurable amount of water because no, we can’t enjoy water while we fast.

Ramadan is more than just abstaining from eating and drinking. It is centered around themes of sacrifices, self-control, and gratitude. Fasting serves as a reminder to Muslims of the daily blessings we have and what our less fortunate brothers and sisters are experiencing.

Some people are exempt from fasting the month. For example, children, the elderly, and those of us who are ill are excused from participating in the fast. In addition to those groups of people, travelers are also exempt from fasting.

After a long day of fasting, Muslims usually spend their evenings praying, reciting the Quran, and/or reading educational Islamic books.

As the end of Ramadan approaches, many Muslims intensify their prayers and worship in hopes of maximizing their worships and blessings from God. Once the month of Ramadan is over, Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Fitr — Festival of Breaking Fast.

It is always an interesting time in the Muslim community when it comes to determining the end of Ramadan. While a tentative date can be estimated by the lunar calendar, Eid Al-Fitr isn’t officially set until local Muslim authorities sight the new moon. Because of that, Muslims don’t know the official date of Eid Al-Fitr until the day before.

Ramadan can be challenging because life does not stop. Many continue going to work, take classes, and live life as one would, but on an empty stomach. And if you’re a coffee addict like me, those coffee withdrawals are real and painful.

While my mother always reminds me to limit my coffee a few weeks before Ramadan to avoid the headaches and nausea of withdrawals, it is harder than it sounds. As the school year wraps up, students are in the middle of exam season. All healthy habits are usually out of the window when exams are around the corner.

In addition, end-of-school-year parties and celebrations can be a very awkward time for Muslims. Do we attend and socialize while everyone is stuffing their faces? Or do we decline the invitation and miss out on good conversations and company? The answer is never easy.

Therefore, don’t hesitate to send your Muslim neighbors, friends, and colleagues a “Ramadan Mubarak” text, email or a phone call. It means a lot to us.


  1. Hi Iman, I don’t know if you’ll get access to this comment but I wanted to say I really loved your views on allyship during Ramadan. Growing up in India, my Muslim friends always told me “oh it’s so easy to fast”, and I’m sure it is to some extent but just like everything, it must have its challenges. I wanted to know more about the special dishes eaten during iftaar so if you’d like to chat with me more about it, my email is or I’m on Instagram as @edlyngd

    Thank you!

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