Red Deerians learned about the Muslim month of Ramadan on Wednesday at a Cultural Café hosted by Central Alberta Refugee Effort. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Learning about Ramadan in Red Deer

The month of fasting begins next week

The month of fasting known as Ramadan begins next week for Muslims around the world and about 30 people attended a Cultural Café on Wednesday to learn more about this holy tradition.

For more than one billion Muslims, Ramadan will begin the evening of May 26 and continues to the evening of June 24 this year according to the lunar calendar.

Healthy adults will fast from sunrise to sunset each day to promote inner reflection, devotion to God and self-control. Not even water is allowed during the day.

Naziha Oun, one of the speakers at the Cultural Café, said people ask if fasting for so many days is difficult.

She said some days can be harder than others, but you get used to it.

“The first couple of days you miss the coffee, of course right,” Oun said with a smile.

“But as the days go by, it’s natural. You do it. We grew up doing it for years and years,” she said at a two-hour Cultural Café held at Central Alberta Refugee Effort’s Immigrant Centre on Wednesday.

She said fasting is a reminder to feel empathy for those suffering because they have nothing to eat or drink.

She said self-discipline helps clear the mind and focus on spirituality. And when the sun sets, families gather together around the dinner table to celebrate with a feast.

“There’s something in the air. It’s like when you feel the holidays around Christmas time. For Muslims around Ramadan, I can smell it. I can feel it. The sense of togetherness. It helps you think about what’s most important in life – like family and friends and good health,” said Oun who grew up in Libya.

Speaker Banan Alsalti said last year for the first time during Ramadan she only ate enough to give her energy.

She focused on eliminating unhealthy habits by giving up sweets and reducing the amount of meat she ate and it made her feel good.

“It was like the easiest Ramadan ever,” Alsalti said, who grew up in Syria.

“Now I cannot wait to start. It’s time to clean my body, my soul.”

Oun said there are ways for people to support their Muslim friends during Ramadan. Work schedules can be changed so people who are fasting can be home for their evening meal. Big meetings or projects can be done outside Ramadan, and avoid eating long meals or drinking in front of those who are fasting.

“It’s nice to show support and appreciation to your colleagues,” Oun said.

She said feel free to ask questions and acknowledge Ramadan.

“Many people don’t know what to say. We usually prefer ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ or ‘Ramadan Kareem’ which means have a blessed month. But for myself, it doesn’t matter, (say) Happy Ramadan. How’s Ramadan going for you? Just show some support and authenticity. This is what matters most.”

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