By: Aarika Kim
This year, Ramadan begins on 12 April 2021 and ends on 12 May 2021 for Eid al-Fitr.
For one entire month, Muslims devote themselves to self-improvement, reflection and commit to following the teachings of Islam more closely.
As plenty of Muslims around the world prepare for the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, let’s look into some of the common misconceptions that people tend to have about Ramadan and fasting.
Ramadan is only about abstaining from food and drink
On the contrary, the entire month of Ramadan is dedicated to Muslims to be the very best versions of themselves — both physically and spiritually.
While fasting is a major part of Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to abstain from habits that are not necessarily beneficial to them, like smoking and gossiping. Essentially, the entire month is viewed as an opportunity to reset and reflect.
In some parts of the world, like Indonesia, Javanese Muslims partake in a ritual bath called padusan to cleanse themselves in nearby lakes and pools. In parts of Malaysia, volunteers in villages may get up early to announce the start of the predawn meal through traditional instruments and songs.
Everyone has to fast
Another common misconception is that fasting is necessary for everyone.
The truth is that fasting needs only be performed by people who are physically and mentally fit and are actually physically able to. Those who are sick, menstruating, or travelling can forgo their fast for the day and “make up” for it by fasting on a different day.
Those experiencing long-term illnesses who cannot fast have the option of paying fidyah — a form of religious donation.
Ramadan starts on the same date every year
Much like the Lunar New Year and Diwali, Ramadan too follows a religious lunar calendar. What is consistent, though, is that Ramadan occurs on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
Absolutely no food for 30 days, straight
Not exactly. There is a set number of hours for Muslims to follow when fasting; this usually occurs between the hours of sunrise and sunset. Outside of fasting hours, Muslims are allowed to eat.
However, what has to be noted is that because of the various time differences around the world, fasting hours can vary between 11 to 20 hours.
For example, in parts of Malaysia, fasting hours can go up to 13.5 hours, while countries like New Zealand and Australia fast for approximately 11.5 hours.
Brushing your teeth could break the fast
Not true. Cleaning your teeth, gargling, and using mouth wash is completely fine to do while fasting. Even if you do accidentally swallow some water or mouth wash, your fast is still considered valid.
Fasting is a great way to lose weight
Yes and no. For some, fasting helps them lost water weight easily. However, it has to be said that because you tend to eat two big meals at dawn and dusk respectively, you may just end up gaining weight.
Pre-COVID, Ramadan bazaars were a staple in parts of Asia such as Singapore and Malaysia. Both Muslims and non-Muslims would converge to get their hands on delicious foods and one-of-a-kind food creations available once a year.
While Singapore's bazaar is going virtual this year, in Malaysia, bazaars will be able to take place with current restrictions in place.
It’s rude for non-Muslims to eat in front of people who fast
Not at all. The act of fasting and the entire spirit of Ramadan is about learning self-control, reflecting, and heightened devotion and worship to God. That being said, while it’s not rude to eat in front of Muslims, trying to persuade or force Muslims to give up their fast is.