Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim lunar calendar, and is one of the five pillars of Islam (the others being the declaration of faith, praying 5 times a day, giving charity, and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca). The Qur'an states that fasting in this month is prescribed so that believers may be more conscious of God.
Ramadan is celebrated as the month during which Muhammad (PBUH) received the first verses of what became the Qur'an, the holy book for Muslims, from Allah (God).
Muslims wake up well before dawn to eat the first meal of the day, which has to last until sunset. When the evening call to prayer (Maghrib) is made, the fast is then broken with a meal — called an iftaar.
Ramadan is a time to practice self-restraint, self-reflection, and heightened devotion and worship. Fasting is seen as a way to cleanse the soul and have empathy for those in the world who are less fortunate.
The practice of fasting reminds us of our human frailty, and dependance on God for sustenance.
People who don’t like watching others eat will opt out of sitting at the lunch table - so, don’t be too apologetic about eating in front of a Muslim (it makes us feel awkward and bad!).
Yes, fasting is hard. It’s meant to be. It’s a time for Muslims to reflect - on their lives, the privilege they hold, and to think further about what they can do to make the world a better place, etc. If you know someone is fasting, talk to them about why they fast, but don’t assume that it’s as awful to them as it may sound to you. Muslims actually love Ramadan!
The list is long. If you have a Muslim friend, and you notice they’re not fasting - don’t inquire why. Lots of Muslims don’t fast, for many reasons (pregnancy, menstruation, illness, old age, etc.).
Do you want to help a colleague or friend who is fasting? Ask them if they’d like any accommodations. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of scheduling meetings earlier in the day, or allowing flexible scheduling - if they need anything, they will tell you. You can help create a safe space for requesting accommodations if you ask first.