Alexander Sless, a 26-year-old residing in Texas, has been fasting for Ramadan since 2021. However not like the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims, for whom fasting in the course of the holy month is a central pillar of the religion, Sless isn’t a Muslim. In truth, he isn’t notably non secular in any respect. “I grew up comparatively open minded to completely different religions and cultures,” says Sless, an agnostic who was born in Israel to a Russian-Ukrainian household earlier than in the end shifting to america. After a Muslim good friend advised him about Ramadan, he determined to make a comedic TikTok about fasting, which then prompted a problem.
“Bro, u have to check out at some point of fasting,” one consumer stated. “Problem accepted,” Sless responded. “I’ll vlog it!” He’s been doing them ever since. And though Sless doesn’t publish as a lot as he did the primary yr, he says he nonetheless continues to quick many of the month.
Sless isn’t alone. Around the globe, a rising variety of non-Muslims have begun documenting their very own experiences observing Ramadan. These people aren’t taking part as would-be converts to Islam. Some, together with Sless, just like the self-discipline that Ramadan instills. Others have chosen to watch the month with the intention to study extra about Islam and the non secular success that the month entails. Many have cited supporting a Muslim good friend or a wider Muslim group as their cause for taking part, whereas others say they have been impressed to take action as a result of they’re residing in a Muslim-majority nation.
Regardless of the cause, the truth that so many non-Muslims seem like gaining an curiosity in one of the widely-observed holidays around the globe presents a possibility for extra folks to higher perceive what Ramadan is all about. Although the holy month is maybe greatest often called a time of fasting, throughout which those that are in a position to quick chorus from consuming and ingesting (sure, even water) throughout daytime, the month is about a lot extra. Ramadan marks the ninth and most sacred month of the Islamic lunar calendar, throughout which Muslims imagine that the Quran, the Islamic holy ebook, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Learn Extra: Why Not All Observant Muslims Quick Throughout Ramadan
Whereas fasting is definitely one part of the month, it’s hardly the only motivation. Ramadan is a time of non secular self-discipline that’s devoted to prayer, charity (Muslims are extremely inspired to provide charity, or zakat, in the course of the month), and self reflection. Certainly, Muslims usually are not solely anticipated to quick from foods and drinks, but additionally extra unsavory habits akin to swearing, gossiping, and holding grudges. Ramadan can also be a time of celebration and group gathering, whether or not it’s for predawn breakfasts (identified in Arabic as suhoor), post-sunset feasts (iftar), or particular nighttime prayers within the Mosque known as taraweeh.
Though their expertise is undoubtedly completely different, these sorts of advantages don’t elude non-Muslim contributors. “While you’re fasting, you get an immense sense of readability of thoughts and also you turn into quite a bit much less anxious,” wrote Ruth Medjber, an Arab-Irish photographer from a Muslim and Catholic household who chronicled her expertise fasting for Ramadan as an atheist in a 2021 piece for the Irish Occasions. “Through the month of Ramadan, I’m compelled to decelerate. I merely don’t have the vitality to hold on working at my full, maniacal velocity.”
“I genuinely just like the expertise as a result of it’s good self-discipline—like a refresh for the yr,” says Sless. As he sees it, “You’ve gotten 11 months to do no matter you need and it’s only a good cleanse.”
Whereas Sless has had the occasional criticism over his Ramadan movies—together with by some who’ve urged that non-Muslims fasting for Ramadan constitutes a form of cultural appropriation—he says that the overwhelming majority of the response has been optimistic, notably from different Muslims. And whereas some Muslims rightly warning in opposition to trivializing Ramadan or making it out to be “simply one other quirky well being fad,” others argue that the inclusion of non-Muslims within the holy month ought to be extra inspired—if to not convey them nearer to the religion, then not less than to instill an awesome sense of familiarity and understanding of Muslims and what they stands for.
And that’s sorely wanted. Anti-Muslim sentiment is a prevalent type of hate—this yr, each the European Union and Canada appointed officers tasked with addressing it. Whereas the U.S. Home of Representatives handed laws in 2021 that may require the State Division to nominate a particular envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia worldwide (not dissimilar to 1 for anti-Semitism), the laws has languished within the Senate since.
Introducing extra non-Muslims to Islam and its festive traditions like Ramadan may give them a extra optimistic view of the faith, says Muhammad Abdel Haleem, the director of the Centre of Islamic Research at London’s Faculty of Oriental and African research. “It’s good on this approach,” he says.
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