Written by: Shereen Gaber
It’s mandatory for Muslims to fast the month of Ramadan as it is one of the five pillars of Islam. There are, of course, exceptions for people who cannot fast such as the elderly, sick and pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating women. Even though Muslims are well aware of these exceptions, a lot of them still don’t accept people who don’t fast and think they shouldn’t show it in public out of “courtesy”. This has become the norm now and this is exactly what these people are doing; fast shaming people who already have approval from God to not fast.
Some people who fast don’t think it’s acceptable or appropriate for non fasting people to eat or drink in front of them. They think that they should do it in hiding out of respect for their feelings. They can even go as far as saying that their non Muslim friends should not eat or drink in front of them to show respect. What a lot of people fail to realize is that courtesy is just that: Courtesy. It’s something a person does out of choice; they don’t have to do it and they shouldn’t be judged or shamed if they choose not to.
Why would fasting people force non fasting ones to fast if God himself doesn’t force them to? Who gives them this right? The whole point of Ramadan is self-control. You’re supposed to go on with your normal daily routine, which includes seeing others who eat or drink or smoke, and control your desires to break your fast. No one is actually supposed to hide themselves eating or drinking for fasting people’s sake, and if they do, they should be thanked and appreciated because they’re going out of their way doing something that they shouldn’t.
It’s not a right for you to claim that people should not eat or drink in front of you but even so, a lot of people still ask others if it’s OK because they’re trying to be polite. So if someone is not offering to abstain from food and drink in front of you, then you shouldn’t ask that from them because simply it’s not your right.
It’s a totally different story for women because they have several licenses not to fast which are not applicable to men like pregnancy, breastfeeding and menstruation. A lot of women feel burdened in Ramadan because they’re scared that they would be shamed for not fasting, especially if they’re on their period. It can even lead to some women trying to fast during pregnancy and nursing which has been proven time and time again to be very unhealthy for both the mother and baby.
Now given all of this, if a person who is not fasting for whatever reason can actually eat or drink in a little bit privacy, that would be nice, but if there is no place to go then they should not be shamed for eating in public. Of course, it goes without saying that no one should tease fasting people by eating directly to their faces, that would be extremely rude and inconsiderate. Just remember that some people who are not fasting can have many reasons for not doing so and should not be shamed. Even if they don’t have any reasons, it’s up to God to judge them, not you, not me. People are already getting judged for everything in their lives, so it doesn’t have to include fasting as well.