During Ramadan, Fasting Isn't for Everyone

September 18, 2009

Author: Raja Abdulrahim

Source: The Los Angeles Times


When Aatif Sharieff was growing up in a Maryland suburb, none of the other kids in his elementary school knew about Ramadan.

Each year, as the Muslim month of fasting came around, Sharieff had to explain to fellow students why he couldn't eat lunch with them or drink from the water fountain.

"Everybody would ask," he recalls. "It became like a broken record, 'I'm fasting, I'm spiritual.' "

These days, Sharieff finds himself explaining to Muslims and non-Muslims alike why he no longer observes the traditional dawn-to-dusk fast. The 27-year-old Virginia architect lets people know that severe acid reflux means that he cannot go long without food.

"There's this expectation . . . that everyone is fasting, so you kind of feel like this anomaly," he said. "The first question people ask is 'How's your fast going?' "

He has to tell them that it's not.

Each year as Muslims across the world observe Ramadan, which ends this weekend, other members of the faith face the challenge and occasional awkwardness that comes with eating and drinking in public during daylight hours. Some explain their situation to friends and colleagues and eat openly; others take furtive sips of water or quick bites of food in stairwells, cars or even bathrooms.