Can You Drink Water During Ramadan? Plus, 11 Other Questions You Might Be Wondering About the Fasting Month

The Muslim holy month explained

a photo of a family observing ramadan
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On the evening of Sunday, March 10 to Tuesday, April 9, 2024, many Muslims will observe the month of Ramadan. During this time, they will participate in fasting, praying, reflection, community building and more. While you may be familiar with some aspects of Ramadan, you may still have questions like: “Can you drink water during Ramadan?” andIs it OK to eat in front of someone who is fasting for Ramadan?” Here is everything you need to know about the sacred month.

What Is Ramadan? 

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and begins and ends with the appearance of the crescent moon. Also known as the “The Night of Power,” Muslims believe this was when God revealed the first verses of the Quran to Prophet Mohammed. It is a period of self-reflection where many practice fasting, communal prayers at the mosque and connecting with loved ones. While many traditions remain the same across different populations, practices during Ramadan may also differ across interpretive schools. We asked two women who observe the month to share how they participate in Ramadan. 

“Ramadan to me is all about improving myself both spiritually and mentally during the month,” says Manahil Zafar, a secondary school teacher and a beauty freelance writer, who observes the month every year with her family. “It’s all about reflecting on the past year and how I can improve myself to be a better Muslim and closer to Allah.” 

“It’s a time for me to focus on my spirituality with God, which is significant to me because in my everyday life I often forget to prioritize that connection. Ramadan gives me that opportunity to spend time with my family as well as learn important skills such as discipline, avoiding temptation, practicing kindness to others and giving back to the community,” says Nariman Dein, a content creator who frequently makes videos about her culture on TikTok. 

How Long Does Ramadan Last? 

Ramadan typically lasts 29 to 30 days. The exact timings will vary depending on where you are, with Ramadan officially beginning when the crescent moon is sighted (hence why timings may differ by a day). According to Britannica, the Islamic calendar is often shorter than the Gregorian calendar (aka the calendar most people in the U.S. follow), so the holy month can begin 10 to 12 days earlier each year. “Islam uses a calendar based on the cycles of the moon. A new month begins with the appearance of the new moon (or the crescent moon) and ends with the next appearance of a new moon. The month of Ramadan thus moves backwards about 10 days every year,” explains Zafar. Once the month is done, Muslims will celebrate with Eid al-Fitr (this year on Wednesday, April 10), a holiday filled with a huge feast, dressing up and gifts.

How Do You Prepare for Ramadan? 

Everyone prepares for the month of fasting in their own way, but for Zafar, creating a routine is very important. “I like to start by meal prepping and deciding what to eat every day. Since this is my first Eid after getting married, I will try to balance my daily routine by preparing meals far in advance so I spend less [time] cooking before dinner and more on praying and getting closer to Allah. I will also try a fit in a gym session depending on how I feel and balancing my prayers, and sleep routine whilst working full time.”

a photo of a family around the table for ramadan
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How Does Fasting Work During Ramadan?

Also known as swam, fasting is a one of the five pillars of Islam and an essential part of Ramadan. (Read about the other four pillars here.)  As Zafar explains, “Fasting is defined as abstaining from eating and drinking. During Ramadan we eat early in the morning before sunrise known as sehri and open our fast after sunset known as iftar time [which is often spent with family and friends]. Overall, we just don’t have lunch throughout the day.”

Can You Ever Skip a Day of Fasting?

There are certain exemptions provided to Muslims that allow you to skip fasting, Dein explains. “For example, when women get their period, they are allowed to miss out on fasting because God knows it could be a difficult time for them. If someone is sick, they are also not required to fast as it is important to prioritize their health and take medication or other methods to get better.” Other groups who are exempt from fasting include those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the elderly, very young children and anyone traveling long distances (though days can be added once they’ve returned). 

Is It OK to Eat in Front of Someone Who Is Fasting for Ramadan?

Considering that there are more than 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, chances are that you or someone you know may be observing Ramadan. As such, you may be wondering if it’s considered rude to tuck into a big bowl of pasta in front of your friend or colleague who is fasting. Dein reassures us that there’s no need to worry, and advises others to simply offer respect to those who are observing for the next couple of weeks.“I don’t really expect anyone to act differently around me just because I’m fasting,” she explains. “The whole point is to avoid temptation and become self-disciplined and I don’t think this will really work if people start hiding their food around me or become cautious. The only thing I’d expect is for them to be respectful about the topic and not purposely offer me food while they know I’m fasting.”

a photo of a family preparing for prayer during ramadan
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What Are Some Potential Side Effects of Fasting During Ramadan?

We previously reported that fasting regularly can help reduce cholesterol, inflammation and blood pressure among other things, although it's worth noting that the practice has mixed reviews among experts. It's also important to know that fasting affects people differently. For Zafar, she notices a difference in her skin and body during Ramadan. “My skin goes through a lot—from dryness, dehydration and breakouts caused by eating all the oily foods (oops!). However, this year I’m determined to ensure my beauty routine is perfected and my skin looks the best it ever has!” she says. “There are many significant changes to the body during Ramadan including sleeping pattern and eating habits which has had an impact on my skin. [Overall,] I like to give it some extra love during this month. I like to spend a little longer doing my skincare routine with more steps to lock in the hydration.”

In terms of weight loss while fasting, this also varies depending on the person. “Everyone’s bodies and metabolism are different, so some people do lose weight and some don’t. I personally do lose a bit of weight, as my body gets used to not eating as much by the end of the month which is great when it comes to Eid,” she says. 

Can You Drink Water During Ramadan?

“Nope not at all!” says Zafar. “We don’t eat or drink until before sunrise and after sunset (that includes water!). If you accidentally drink water or anything else your fast is [invalid].” Though it’s important to note that you’re able to make up a fasting day if that ever does happen.

What Else Is Not Permitted During Ramadan?

Aside from drinking water, Dein shares some of the other things you can’t do during Ramadan. “Some things can break your fast and make it invalid for that day, which includes smoking, sex, taking medication or anything that enters the body.” (She notes that swearing, wearing makeup and listening to music are all permitted, however.)

What Is a Typical Day Like During Ramadan? 

The daily start and end of fasting may differ across families and cultures, as well as what foods are eaten to break fast and how social the period may be. In short, everyone’s Ramadan may look a little different! “I try to go about my day as usual without expecting special treatment from others, that means going to work, school or any other commitment,” says Dein. “Fasting becomes easier as the month progresses, but the first couple of days are always the hardest but I find that my body becomes used to it. I wake up right before sunrise and have a meal to prepare myself for fasting and by sunset I spend my time eating with my family as we bond over how hungry we were during the day. I try to also make it a habit during the day to pray on time, read the Quran and self-reflect.”

For Zafar, she navigates Ramadan while she’s working. “I work full time as a secondary school teacher which requires so much patience and concentration, especially during Ramadan! The vibe at school is amazing as we normally have assemblies informing all students and a prayer room dedicated for students who are fasting.” 

can you drink water during ramadan eid
Photo Courtesy of Manahil Zafar

How Do You Celebrate the End of Ramadan?

As mentioned, Eid al-Fitr is a time for celebrating the end of the holy month. “Eid day is always great,” says Zafar. “The night before involves putting on some henna and preparing jewelry and clothing that I’m going to wear. It involves waking up early to get ready, doing my makeup and putting my clothes on (traditionally it is required you wear new clothes on Eid). Then I make my way to the mosque to offer my prayers, followed by spending the day with my family. We take loads of pictures of ourselves, get lots of gifts and end the day with a big feast!” 

Meanwhile Dein shares, “My family and I shop for new outfits for Eid and my mum bakes treats for us to eat during the day as well as having a big feast as a way to reward ourselves for fasting the month of Ramadan. This day is very important because it makes you grateful for being able to have access to food and access to people who love and support you, it’s a really good way to appreciate the finer things in life.”

How Can Non-Muslims Respect Those Who Practice Ramadan?

There are multiple ways to respect and learn from those who observe Ramadan. Firstly, you can greet those observing Ramadan by saying “Happy Ramadan” or “Have a Bless Ramadan.” You can also be mindful about how you talk to someone who is fasting. It’s not polite to ask someone why they are or are not fasting. As Zafar explains, “Be respectful of Muslims that are fasting and consider how your actions may be received by others e.g. inviting colleagues to drinks or lunch might be seen as insensitive by those who are fasting.”

She also reassures us that it’s OK to ask questions to better understand Ramadan. “Ask us any questions you may have about Ramadan. Workplaces and employers should be inclusive, so everyone is aware of what Ramadan is. Plus, research beforehand about Ramadan, so if we are struggling you can be understanding as to why we might be that way,” she says.

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Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...