Ramadan isn’t just a time where millions of Muslims fast – it’s also a time where they’re subjected to ignorant and irritating questions. Radhika Sanghani lists the worst
Every year, a significant proportion of the 2.71 million Muslims living in the UK will celebrate Ramadan – the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
This year it began on June 18 and will finish on July 17. For these 30 days, those Muslims observing the festival will fast during daylight hours.
That means no food, liquids, smoking or sex. They can eat and drink two meals a day – before dawn and after sunset – but that’s it.
Most people who fast have been doing it for years, and it doesn’t drastically affect their daily lives. They’ll still go to work, or look after their families.
The only difference is they’ll be doing it on less fuel, and they’ll be forced to hear the opinions of everyone around them.
For women, it can be even worse as they’ll be subjected to a very specific set of questions that most of them are sick and tired of hearing.
Here are some of the worst offenders I’ve collected via social media and from speaking to Muslim women:
‘Do you lose lots of weight? You must look so skinny at the end of it.’
Firstly, this is not the point of Ramadan. In Qu’ran it says Muslims should fast “to attain Taqwa [God-consciousness]”.
Secondly, starving the body of food can lead it to burn fat and eventually lose weight – though it still requires healthy eating, with a balanced diet. But in some cases, people will actually gain weight if they consume large portions of calorific food when they break their fast.
‘Why have you stopped fasting?!’
Muslim women cannot fast when they have their periods – instead they make up those days at a later date. Chances are that if a woman was fasting but suddenly stopped, it’s because she’s menstruating and probably doesn’t want to discuss that with the whole office.
Anisa Subedar, a radio producer, tells me: “I don’t fast when I’m on my period because God understands how dreadful I’m going to feel and how all I want to do is bury my face in a plate of doughnuts.”
‘What do you do if you’re pregnant?’
Pregnant women and those breastfeeding don’t have to fast, according to Islamic texts. If they want to, they can discuss it with their doctor.
Do you have to cover your hair because you’re fasting?
Subedar says people often ask her this. Her response? “No.”
Wearing headscarves or niqabs is not related to fasting for Ramadan.
‘I thought you were too intelligent to fast?’
It shouldn’t need saying but intelligence, or a lack thereof, has nothing to do with Ramadan. People who fast do it out of a sense of religious duty.
‘Should you really be going to the gym?’
If people are eating healthily when they break their fast, it’s really their choice.
‘If you eat your lipstick do you break your fast?’
“No – make-up doesn’t count,” Subedar explains: “It’s all about intention (niyaah). If my intention was to constantly graze on my lipstick to get me through my fast then it probably negate my reasons to fast. Besides, lipstick isn’t particularly nutritious.”
And for good measure, here are a few more pesky questions and remarks Muslims of both genders loathe:
‘Are you hungry?’
Probably, but you reminding them doesn’t help…
‘It’s so wrong – I couldn’t do it’
“Try it,” says Subedar. “You’ll be amazed at what your body is capable of.”
‘Why should you get allowances at work?’
‘God wouldn’t care if you ate’
‘Not even water?!’
Nope. Not even water.