Could You Give up Food and Water for 30 Days?
Ramadan and Muslim Americans
Ramadan is a month where Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk for 30 days. They do not eat or drink during the day but can eat and drink at night. It is followed by a huge celebration called Eid Al-Fitr.
To answer the common questions:
"You can't drink anything?"
No. We can't drink anything.
"Not even water?"
Not even water.
"Why do you fast?
Well, that's a good question.
Muslims fast in Ramadan for multiple reasons. Ramadan has many health benefits that are physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Fasting from food and water from sun up until sun down rids the body of toxins, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. It can also help build up the immune system. It helps the body direct energy to other places rather than digesting food. As a result, people say they can think clearer and accomplish more.
Muslims do have to be careful of dehydration and therefore, often plan to drink more at night.
Ramadan is also a time to be thankful for all the blessings one has. One feels hungry during the day but always has food waiting on the table when it is time to break the fast. It generates sympathy for the less fortunate who do not always have food on the table to eat. As a result, Ramadan is a time for volunteering, charity, and helping the poor. Muslim communities organize huge dinners to break fast at sunset, as well as make sure everyone in the community has food and resources. No family is left to go hungry during the celebration after Ramadan.
During this time Muslims donate money, volunteer their time, and work with charities to help the community.
The beauty of Ramadan is that it is a time to be with people. It is a time to connect with loved ones and celebrate with them. It is a time to contact extended family that you have not spoken to all year. It is a time to contact loved ones that live in different parts of the world.
It is a time to make up with people you fought with throughout the year. It is a time to pray in big groups, to meet new people, to help each other and support each other.
During Ramadan Muslims often invite people over to their houses to break fast together and share food, whether those people are family members, long-time friends, or complete strangers that you invite to your house. There is a blessing in sharing and exchanging food and cultures with each other.
In many cultures with big Muslim populations, there are specific dishes and desserts that are only made during Ramadan almost as a reward for fasting the whole day.
The American Muslim Tradition
Because Muslims cannot eat during the day in the month of Ramadan, they have a meal called suhoor right before the sun rises. In Muslim majority countries, restaurants are open throughout the night for people to go eat. In the United States, however, Muslims do not have many options to eat out for suhoor.
IHOP, or the International House of Pancakes, a restaurant that specializes in breakfast foods, is open 24 hours a day. The diner-style restaurant chain has become the place for American Muslims to eat at 3 AM in Ramadan.
Chances are if you go into an IHOP in the middle of the night in the month of Ramadan, you will find many Muslims having suhoor there. The IHOP tradition allows friends and family to have a meal together in the hours before the sun rises.
The Ramadan IHOP experience is very uniquely American and Muslim. The American breakfast place allows for the blending of two seemingly different things.