It’s officially Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. The month long celebrations started on the Friday the 26th of May and will last till Saturday the 24th of June.

This basically means that Muslims all over the world have changed their daily routines as they observe the holy month. From abstaining from food, drinks, sexual relations, sinful speech and behavior to giving to charity and the poor. This calls for them to fast each day for thirty days from dawn to dusk. Fact is fasting isn’t easy and the least we can do as non-Muslims is to support them.

A Muslim pal of mine confided in me how sometimes non-Muslims come out as insensitive during this holy month. I sought to find out how we as non-Muslims do this and how we can support them as they fast and here are my 5 cents;

1. Recognize that fasting is not an excuse

Ramadan is generally a time for reflection, humility and a time to do good deeds in the community. It is also a month where Muslims try to work on their self-discipline. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart from worldly activities with the aim of cleansing the soul and freeing it from harmful activities – thus the abstinence from sinful speech and sexual relations.

Fasting for Muslims is not an excuse for them to leave work early, so when you see your friends or co-workers taking on lighter projects or clearing schedules during this time, try to understand. Fasting is also not an excuse for Muslims to lose weight so stop asking them about that as well.

Take this time to increase your knowledge and understand their traditions and above all, respect them.

2. Don’t ask them why they’re not fasting

If you see a Muslim eating or drinking fluids during this time, don’t bash them. There are a number of reasons why Muslims may not be fasting such as illness, pregnancy, old age, or menstruation or for personal reasons. Either way, an individual’s decision not to fast is their own so don’t pester them about it.

3. Respect the fact that they are fasting

This especially means not being weird about eating in front of them and not teasing them for not eating. For a whole month, Muslims won’t be eating and drinking during the day. That doesn’t mean you avoid them whenever you have food with you. Hiding your food whenever they come around is a no no.

Also, avoid scheduling meetings during lunch hour then bringing food to those meetings. That’s just plain insensitive.

4. Understand their schedules

If a Muslim co-worker wants to leave early for their break or they want to leave work a bit earlier, try to understand. Aside from the fasting, its business as usual for them, but don’t strain them by giving them extra hours or making them stay in the office longer than usual.

5. Respect their privacy in the washroom

During Ramadhan, Muslims pray up to five allocated times a day and in order to perform these prayers, they have to perform Wudu. Wudu is an Islamic ritual that involves washing the hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, head and feet with water as part of a ritual washing.

Unfortunately because most people don’t understand it or why they do it, you might find that most colleagues end up staring. Note that this is a very personal ritual for them and it really doesn’t help when you stare.