Diversity Matters: Ramadan

May 23, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

Michigan Medicine draws its strength from the diversity of its patients, faculty, staff and students.

Beginning Friday night, and continuing over the next month, many in the organization will be observing Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. “Ramadan Mubarak! Blessed Ramadan!” is a common greeting for this month.

To help you become more understanding and supportive of patients, families and colleagues, here’s what you may not know about Ramadan:

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan falls during the ninth month of the lunar-based Muslim calendar, believed to be the month that the prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God (“Allah” in Arabic) around 1,400 years ago. Collectively, those revelations became the Muslim holy book known as the Quran.

“Ramadan is celebrated as the time the Quran was sent to guide Muslims in all aspects of their life,” said Imam Kamau Ayubbi of Michigan Medicine’s Department of Spiritual Care.

To celebrate, Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset each day, abstaining from drinking water, eating food and other pleasures during daylight hours. Extra prayers are offered at night.

“From a distance, fasting may be seen as a hardship,” Ayubbi said. “But for many Muslims, fasting is a sign of gratitude and giving thanks, it is also a practice of heightened spiritual awareness and purification.”

Fasting is considered to be a way to empathize with the plight of the poor, and charity is traditionally emphasized during the holiday period.

Both before the daily fast and after, meals are eaten. The pre-dawn meal is called suhoor, while an evening meal, the fatoor, is taken at sunset to break the fast. The sunset meal often includes dates, in the tradition of Muhammad.

After the fast has been broken, a larger, more elaborate feast may take place with friends and family.

How will Ramadan affect patients and colleagues?

While fasting has a religious significance, exceptions are made for those who are ill, elderly or pregnant. That means patients are excused from the fast, though they may ask for certain foods or other religious items during the month.

Consult with each individual’s registered dietitian nutritionist or a member of Spiritual Care to see what services can be offered at Michigan Medicine.

Congregational prayers are offered in the UH Chapel on Fridays from 1:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. Staff members, patients and family members are welcome to attend.

Meanwhile, certain faculty and staff members may fast during the day. Please be respectful of those choices and ask them how you may support their efforts.

When does Ramadan begin and end?

Because it is based on the lunar calendar, Ramadan falls on a different date every year.

This year, Ramadan will likely begin at sundown on Friday night, May 26 and end at sundown on Sunday, June 25, depending on new moon sightings.

To mark the end of Ramadan, there is typically a festival of prayer and feasting known as Eid al-Fitr (pronounced Eed-al-fit’r). During the feast, Muslims will give thanks to Allah for helping them perform their duty of fasting. Gifts are exchanged and large meals and sweets are shared.

“Eid al-Fitr is certainly a festive time,” Ayubbi said. “As is the entire month of Ramadan. It’s important for Muslims to celebrate everything we have been given.”