Im so suprised. My driving instructor was like “you can have water if you want your dad wont find out that you broke your fast”
I have never met someone who genuinely believes that my dad would force me to do anything.
Fasting is my choice, not my parents or any human being.
Although man has body and man has soul, man is not either one of them, but is a composite, a union of both of them. Man is the creature which is neither purely immaterial, like God or the angels, nor purely material, like the rest of creation, but a union of both, a microcosm of the whole universe whose mission is in part to be a bridge between God and the rest of creation.
And this, in fact, is precisely why fasting and the other disciplines matter. Not because we are not our bodies, but because we are, at least in part. And therefore, what we do with our bodies matters. We cannot draw a clear line between the bodily and the spiritual; the truth of the Incarnation and the Eucharist and so much of our liturgical life prohibits us from doing so. We are not saved by escaping from bodily life, but by putting on and consuming and becoming the Body of Christ. So the body is of immense importance, and asceticism rightly conceived is not a rejection of the body, but what comes from taking it seriously.
Dear supportive (non-Muslim) friends, family and coworkers,
We know you mean well (or so we assume), but you may not always be having the impact you intend, so here are some Ramadan basics – do’s and don’t’s so that you can truly support those of us fasting during Ramadan!
“Wait - you can’t eat or drink all day? NOT. EVEN. WATER?!” No eating or drinking. Yes, even water. (Please, spare us the reaction of extreme shock and disbelief.)
When fasting during Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sundown. Yes, this includes water. While this may come as a surprise to you, it can be othering to experience your reaction of shock and disbelief. It implicitly communicates that you are perceiving our practice as a deviation from some norm (probably Christian hegemony*). Islam is a religion of 1.57 billion followers, many of whom fast during Ramadan, so this practice is pretty normal for approximately a quarter of the world’s population. Take in the new information, but try not to dramatize this norm of ours. This is our religious/spiritual practice, not asceticism nor exceptionalism. Though you may be trying to convey admiration or awe, it can be awkward when we are simply practicing our religion.
“Why aren’t you fasting?” This is actually a pretty invasive question.
There are actually a number of reasons Muslims may not be fasting - some may be premised in the faith tradition, and others may be personal. Either way, an individual’s reasoning for not fasting is not for public consumption unless they choose to share that information. If you ask someone if they are or are not fasting, let them respond - and don’t probe further unless they offer additional information. It can seem judgemental of their religious practice if they’re simply choosing not to fast. In addition, you can create awkward situations for both that person AND yourself.
One of those awkward situations are when someone reveals that they are on their period and that is why they are not fasting. Many of us don’t want to share our menstrual cycles with you - and many of you probably weren’t looking to find that out, either.
“Oh no, I’m eating/drinking, let me hide my food/drink!” Really, it’s okay. Part of fasting is discipline.
Just because we’re fasting doesn’t mean we no longer understand how to engage with food or that we have no discipline. So don’t worry about eating or drinking in front of us, and don’t go to extreme lengths to avoid it. Consideration is appreciated but part of the fast is the discipline of our abstinence.
“Oh, I know what that’s like!” Um… do you?
Fasting during Ramadan is unique. Please do not equate it to other fasts. Feel free to relate in, but don’t equate experiences. Instead, ask thoughtful open ended questions about what fasting/Ramadan means to the person.
“How can I support a fasting person?” Great question.
Fasting is an individual experience - ask a specific person if they need/want anything from you and how can you support them. The answer won’t be the same across the board.
Some things to keep in mind include: a) We may be tired and/or cranky (even hangry) from lack of sleep, food and water - try not to take it personally. b) Be conscientious of how much physical energy is required for an activity or outing you may propose, and the settings in which you are doing them. For instance, Ramadan may not be the best time for moving office furniture or for a work happy hour at a bar. c) Also, maybe someone else can do physical lifting or moving of items because a fasting person may be low on energy. d) But always, ask the fasting person what they prefer so that you are sure you’re actually being supportive and not making assumptions.
“You must lose a ton of weight!” Don’t bring up weight loss.
Fasting during Ramadan is a faith practice and spiritual experience, not about weight management. In addition, twisting it to be about weight supports a culture of thinspiration and fatphobia* that is harmful and destructive, especially if you don’t know an individual’s history.
Ramadan is a holy month we observe through fasting and prayer, and Eid is the holiday we celebrate. Ramadan can be paralleled with Lent or Yom Kippur, and you don’t really hear folks wishing people a Happy Lent or Happy Yom Kippur. Instead, you can use the greetings Muslims use: Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem. These roughly translate to wishing someone a Blessed Ramadan or Generous Ramadan, respectively. Moreover, it is the greeting Muslims use around the world. Alternatively, you can wish someone a blessed Ramadan in your own words.
“How can I respectfully participate in Ramadan?” A note on appreciation versus appropriation.
It may be with good intention that you wish to ‘give something up’ in solidarity, but Ramadan is not the same as Lent nor is it a New Year’s Resolution. To ensure you are avoiding cultural appropriation*, instead commit to learning about Islam and Ramadan, intentionally and respectfully.
Continue to educate yourself around cultural appropriation, why it is harmful and how to avoid it - and then apply these principles to religious and spiritual practices that are not your own.
We Orthodox fast from all dairy and meat products for half of the entire year, almost as if in an effort to reconcile one half of the year with the other, secular time with the time of the kingdom. To fast is:
not to deny the world, but to affirm the world, together with the body, as well as the material creation;
to remember the hunger of others, identifying ourselves with – and not isolating ourselves from – the rest of the world;
to feel the hunger of creation itself for restoration and transfiguration;
to hunger for God, transforming the act of eating into nothing less than a sacrament;
to remember that we live not ‘by bread alone’ [Matt. 4:4], that there is a spiritual dimension to our life;
to feast along with the entire world; for if we Orthodox fast together – never alone or at whim – the ultimate purpose is to appreciate the natural beauty of all creation.
To fast is to acknowledge that all of this world, ‘the earth, is the Lord’s, and all the fullness thereof’ [Ps. 23:1]. It is to affirm that the material creation is not under our control; it is not to be exploited selfishly, but is to be returned in thanks to God, restored in communion with God.
Therefore, to fast is to learn to give, and not simply to give up. It is not to deny, but in fact to offer, to learn to share, to connect with the natural world. It is beginning to break down barriers with my neighbour and my world, recognizing in other faces, icons; and in the earth, the face itself for God.
To fast, then, is to love; it is to see more clearly, to restore the primal vision of creation, the original beauty of the world. To fast is to move away from what I want, to what the world needs. It is to be liberated from greed, control and compulsion. It is to free creation itself from fear and destruction. Fasting is to value everything for itself, and not simply for ourselves. It is to regain a sense of wonder, to be filled with a sense of goodness, of God-liness. It is to see all things in God, and God in all things. The discipline of fasting is the necessary corrective for our culture of wasting. Letting go is the critical balance for our controlling; communion is the alternative for our consumption; and sharing is the only appropriate healing of the scarring that we have left of the body of our world, as well as the humanity as the body of God.”
-Fr. John Chryssavgis on ‘The Book of Nature’ [p. 117-118] in Light Through Darkness: The Orthodox Tradition
Note that these fasting guidelines are general. Fasting is a
spiritual discipline that should be practiced with the oversight and
direction of your spiritual father.If you have any specific questions
about how the fasting discipline applies to you, you should consult your
The general guidelines for the Dormition Fast are as follows:
WEEKDAYS are Strict Fast Days. On these days we abstain from meat, dairy, fish with backbones, fowl, wine, and oil.
SATURDAYS and SUNDAYS are Wine and Oil Days.
On these days the fast is relaxed to permit wine and oil, but we still
abstain from meat, dairy, fish with backbones, and fowl.