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When I was a kid, my parents encouraged me to fast from ‎sunrise to sundown during the month of Ramadan. The first time ‎I fasted was at age 7. Around the afternoon, I could ‎not continue so I broke my fast prematurely that day. At least I got half credit for my efforts. Ever since I have fasted annually, and from sunrise to sundown. ‎

The last 10 days of March 2023 will mark ‎the first 10 days of ‎Ramadan — a month when ‎Muslims devote their time, attention ‎and ‎energy to serving God. Ramadan has three ‎dimensions — ‎personal, social and spiritual. ‎

First, observant Muslims look inward and ‎practice mindfulness in their daily actions ‎because they cannot eat, drink or have sex ‎‎from sunrise to sundown — ‎abstinence performed at the will of and service ‎to God — for an entire calendar month each year. ‎Muslims aim to emerge from ‎Ramadan transformed.

Second, although Ramadan is about the ‎individual looking ‎inward, it is also ‎about the community, as the purpose of ‎‎fasting is largely to remind Muslims of ‎those who live in ‎chronic poverty. Ramadan provides all ‎‎observant Muslims with a "shared human ‎experience" as they ‎change their daily ‎habits, sometimes dramatically. ‎

For example, where I grew up, in Yemen, ‎Ramadan changes the ‎spirit of the community ‎completely. People congregate at ‎night ‎instead of during the day. The ‎mosques get full, similar to the ‎large ‎collective focus on the Super Bowl or "March Madness" here in the ‎United States. ‎‎Even those who don't regularly attend the mosque show up during ‎Ramadan.

However, the social aspect of Ramadan has ‎been compromised ‎since the onset of the ‎COVID-19 pandemic, as Muslims could ‎‎neither pray nor socialize together in ‎congregations. ‎The communal aspect of Ramadan has come to a halt. But as we are slowly transitioning back to ‎normalcy, this Ramadan might be different.

Third, Ramadan is a spiritual month when Muslims ‎recharge and reconnect ‎with God. The most revered activity in ‎‎Ramadan, along with fasting, is reading ‎the holy book of ‎Islam, the Qur'an. Fasting ‎trains the self to heighten compassion, ‎self-discipline and thankfulness to the creator; ‎it imparts ‎sympathy to the poor for whom ‎hunger is a common experience; ‎and it ‎reminds us that food and water are ‎God's blessings ‎on which we depend.‎

For non-Muslims, it might be difficult to support Muslims ‎during Ramadan. But here are some ideas:

First, don't assume your Muslim colleagues ‎are fasting or ‎observing Ramadan spiritual ‎activities. Muslims are not a ‎homogenous ‎group; they are a heterogeneous group with ‎‎diverse practices, from liberal ‎to conservative, ‎observant to secular. Don't ‎make comments if you ‎observe your ‎Muslim colleague eating during the day. One may skip fasting for ‎either personal or medical ‎reasons. ‎

Second, for some, fasting may not ‎impair productivity ‎or efficiency at ‎work, especially those who have been ‎‎fasting since childhood. But for others (including myself), ‎‎fasting may present a real challenge, ‎because we can neither eat ‎nor drink for 12 ‎consecutive hours, roughly from sunrise ‎‎(around ‎‎6 a.m.) to sundown (around 8 p.m.). ‎Support your Muslim ‎colleagues regardless of how they choose to practice. ‎

Third, some Muslim women may decide to ‎wear modest attire ‎during Ramadan ‎because that accords with the spirit of ‎living a ‎traditional Muslim life. ‎Ramadan is a month of deepened spiritual awareness, when more people display full observance of religion.‎ ‎

Ramadan Mubarak ("Blessed Ramadan").‎

Abdulrahman Bindamnan is a Ph.D. student and an ICGC fellow at the University of Minnesota. He is a research assistant at the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing.