Ramadan for non-Muslims: An etiquette guide

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There are 7 billion people in the world.

And, a full 22 percent of them – 1.6 billion – are about to begin a fast that’ll last from sunup to sundown.

Every day.

For an entire month.

Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, begins after the sun sets Sunday.

But, what if you’re not a Muslim – just a caring, considerate person.

Is there anything you should be doing so you don’t come across as insensitive to your fasting friends?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: No. But, you can earn some cool points if you follow these 10 tips.

1. You can totally eat in front of us.

For the next 30 days, Muslims around the world will abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry on business as usual. (Just turn a deaf ear to our growling stomach.)

2. But, try not to schedule a work lunch.

If you have to have a brownbag, you should.

But, don’t feel bad if we sit there, like a vegetarian friend at a churrascaria.

Ditto for a happy-hour mixer.

If your Muslim co-worker takes a pass, understand.

3. You don’t have to fast with us.

You can if you want to see what it feels like.

But, it’s not going to hurt our feelings – even if we’re best friends.

4. But, you can join us for iftar.

Iftar is the breaking of the fast after sundown.

We like to make it a big communal meal.

You should come.

5. You don’t have to know when it begins.

Ramadan isn’t like Christmas or Thanksgiving, as in you know exactly when it’ll fall.

It bounces around, because the Islamic calendar is lunar.

When it begins depends on when the new moon is seen.

That’s why the precise dates change from year to year.

6. But, please, be a little flexible.

How we determine when Ramadan begins is decidedly old-school – you have to physically see the moon (even though there are apps for that).

That’s why, if your co-worker says “Starting tomorrow, can I start work early so I can leave sooner?” try to accommodate.

7. We’ll still go for coffee with you.

No, we can’t drink.

Not even water.

But, we’ll walk with you if you want to take a break.

8. But, we may keep our distance.

One word: Halitosis.

You try not eating or drinking the entire day.

That’s why we’re standing a foot away from you when we talk.

9. You can say “Ramadan Mubarak.”

There’s no “war on Christmas”-level controversy surrounding the greeting. (It means “Happy Ramadan.”)

Your Muslim co-worker will appreciate the thoughtfulness.

10. But, please, don’t say “I should fast, too. I need to lose some weight.”

Ramadan’s not about that.

Plus, one of Ramadan’s side effects is obesity. (It’s all that post-sundown overeating.)

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