The holy month of Ramadan is awaited by Muslims all over the world. In Pakistan it is a month filled with festivities, iftar parties and acts of worship – it is very much a part of our culture, as well as our religion. However, this is not usually the case when it comes to Ramadan in Non-Muslim countries. If you’re curious about the experiences of Ramadan for various Muslims around the world, scroll down!
To protect their identity, names have been changed in this article. However, the ages and geographical location remain true.
“I had to say no to most plans with my friends in high school because I didn’t want to be out in the sun for too long, or compromise on my fast. Sometimes I’d miss my fast just so I could hang out with them.”
Noor has been able to experience Ramadan in three different countries – Jordan, Caribbean and in the U.K. She has been fasting in the U.K. for the last 8 years now. In terms of whether it’s challenging to fast in a Western country, Noor says “it really depends on which month Ramadan is that year.” She remembers growing up, and especially during high school, she had to say no to most plans with her friends as she did not want to be out in the sun too long or compromise on her fasts. This made her feel like she was missing out a lot. In fact sometimes she would miss her fasts so she could go hang out with her friends. Noor felt that those around her didn’t always understand or try to accommodate her fasting as much. For instance, her high school graduation was during Ramadan and she had to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning to get ready for it. Noor remembers how difficult this was as she had to bear all 14 hours of her fast without any sleep. However, she understands that she can’t really expect Ramadan to be like how it was for her back home in Jordan as this is, after all, a Western country. Fasting during the pandemic has been a relief as she does not really have to get out of the house. Noor told us that, “sometimes you want to go out and do things after iftar, but since places shut early in the West you can’t really wait until after” – this can tend to make fasting difficult. However, fasting in a Western country helps her feel more connected to her religion; she makes more of an effort during Ramadan to understand her religion and her heritage. She doesn’t feel that it’s especially challenging to fast in a Western country, but it’s definitely different.
Noor, 20, London, UK
“Fasting was easy, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as it is in Pakistan…”
Having lived in Australia for 10 years, first as a student and then while working, Zohaib experienced Ramadan in the West for quite a few years. While fasting was rather easy in Australia, it wasn’t as enjoyable as it is in Pakistan. In Australia, he frequently only drank water for suhoor as he is not much of a cook, or sometimes his roommate would make him some eggs and fry him a frozen paratha. He shared that while this was very kind of his friend, he did miss the abundance of food he could help himself to during suhoor or iftar back home. Zohaib’s non-Muslim friends and co-workers were very supportive of him fasting during Ramadan; one of them would even try to fast with him in solidarity and he was allowed prayer breaks during work, with no time limit. “Australians are a lot more accommodating and tolerant than people think they are,” says Zohaib. Ramadan also falls during the winter in Australia, so going about his day was not as much of a struggle as it is during warmer weather.
Zohaib, 32, Adelaide, Australia
“I am very lucky to have lived within a Muslim majority region in India…there was great sense of community and it allowed me to take part in many religious activities with vigour.”
For Danish, Ramadan in India is not too challenging due to the large Muslim population. Danish was born in India and lived there until he went off to college in the U.S. He considers himself lucky to have lived in a Muslim majority region as there was a great sense of community which allowed him to participate in many religious activities with great enthusiasm. But he acknowledges that not everyone’s Ramadan is spent that way in India, as not everyone lives within a Muslim community. Despite that, he thinks that Ramadan in India is a lot easier in comparison to fasting in a Western country. He feels that it really is the essence of community and support from fellow Muslims that can help make one’s Ramadan special. Overall, his experience of fasting in India has been quite positive, and he feels that everyone is very understanding of it.
Danish, 20, Udaipur, India
“I don’t really find fasting to be all that difficult in a Western setting or anywhere else for that matter. I feel that this blessed month helps me and my family remember who we are, and what we stand for.”
Finland has some of the longest fasts in the world during Ramadan, sometimes up to 22 hours a day. Hence fasting in this Scandinavian country is nothing short of an achievement. Therefore, we asked Tariq how his experience has been fasting in Finland for the last 7 years. According to him what’s the most challenging is the lack of a cultural atmosphere. He feels that fasting is a lot more fun in the Arab countries or within Pakistan. When he lived in Singapore, he felt that the spirit of Ramadan was everywhere due to the Malay population, but he does not feel any such spirit in Finland. During Ramadan, Tariq takes the opportunity to remind himself, his children, his wife and also his colleagues, who may not be Muslim, that the true essence of this month is that of sacrifice and of patience. Tariq and his family prepare iftar together, and he always looks forward to this experience. He doesn’t really find fasting to be all that difficult in a Western setting or anywhere else for that matter. Tariq feels that this blessed month helps him, and his family remember who they are, and what they stand for. Tariq also mentioned how it helps him remember that as Muslims “we are a people of peace and patience. We are people of justice and righteousness. We are a people of giving. We recognise that we are dependent on our Creator.” Hence, despite how dreadfully long the fasts can get sometimes in Finland, Tariq and his family are thankful for this holy month as it brings them closer to their roots and religion.
Tariq, 52, Helsinki, Finland