30 Days of Ramadan: New Understandings and Challenges

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Ramadan Kareem! Today marks the fifth day of #Ramadan2019. In my last blog post, I wrote about the onset of Ramadan here in Qatar. This is only my second Ramadan in a Muslim country, so I am still learning quite a bit every day about the traditions and practices of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

For example, a friend and I were looking forward to watching Detective Pikachu this weekend, but we were unable to find any showtimes at the theaters in Qatar. Sometimes a movie’s release is delayed in Qatar due to questionable content that needs to be edited so that the movie receives the approval of Ministry of Culture and Sports. For example, I wrote a post about the complications I experience trying to watch Blade Runner 2049 when it came out last year. However, despite occasionally banned Pokemon episodes, I doubted there was anything too problematic in Detective Pikachu. That’s when it occurred to me that movies might not be released because of Ramadan. Sure enough, a quick internet search confirmed that new movies would not be released in Qatar during Ramadan. No matter.

Last year, while I was careful not to eat or drink at work or in public during Ramadan, I did not fast. This year, inspired by an American friend who lived in Dubai before and fasted for Ramadan, I decided that I would trying fasting as well.

On the first day of Ramadan, I was very weak and lethargic. I mostly spent the day in my apartment biding my time until Iftar, which was at 6:07pm.

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“I’m so hungry,” I moaned around noon.

“I can imagine,” my friend commiserated. “Fasting is difficult.”

“I know.” I took a drink of my coffee.

“Wait! Are you drinking coffee?” My friend asked.

“Yes, I’m drinking water and coffee, but I’m not eating.”

“You know, you’re not supposed to consume liquids while fasting.”

“Give me a break. This is my first time. Next Ramadan, inshallah.”

My friend pried, “What time did you stop eating today?”

“I had breakfast before 8am. I know it’s a little late, but that counts as Suhoor, right?”

“What? Suhoor is at 3:26am. What time are you breaking your fast?”

“Of course at Iftar, which is 6:07pm.” I said indignantly.

“Conan,” my friend said shaking her head, “Fasting during Ramadan is 14-15 hours. No food, coffee, or water. What you’re doing is just skipping lunch.”

Despite my friend “reading” my foray into fasting, I will continue to skip lunches for the rest of the month.


Besides not being able to watch new release movies and misunderstanding the extent of true fasting, I recently discovered 30 day challenges during the month of Ramadan for Muslim and non-Muslims. In a previous blog post, I describe how I was fascinated with Lenten Calendars with special challenges. Similarly, there are Ramadan calendars with thematic challenges. For example, the following challenge asks a person to reflect on what they are grateful for — a reasonable request as one attempts to purify their body and soul during the holy month.

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Additionally, children need to be challenged during Ramadan, so a Muslim mommy blogger created the following drawing challenge to engage and educate her children.

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Throughout the world, there are fitness buffs who must maintain a running schedule, workout regime, or special diet no matter the limitations or difficult situation (i.e., vacation, pregnancy, post-operation, cancer treatment, etc.). Ramadan is no different for this type of individual.

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Much of the world is obsessed with Instagram and social media image sharing. (In fact, I was a little shocked when I was invited to pray at the mosque on the first day of Eid last year, and some people were snapping selfies and live-streaming during the prayer.) So, it only makes sense that someone organized a Ramadan photo-a-day challenge to redirect the narcissistic tendencies of photo sharing toward more worthwhile values and reflection.

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Finally, for non-Muslims, there are special challenges for better understanding Muslim practices and traditions, such as the 30 Days Ramadan Hijab Challenge. Because of the many stylish hijab options, this might be the ideal challenge for that “extra” individual in your life.

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I wish there was a headgear challenge for me! I would totally love to rock a hipster kufi.

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No matter the additional layer of challenge that one opts for during Ramadan, the month is already equally grueling and rewarding for those strictly adhering to sawm — so I will do what I can to learn about the various practices and be respectful during the holy month. Shokrun and ma salama.

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