On Thursday, Stephen Manderson, better known as the rapper Professor Green, posted on Instagram announcing his decision to take part in Ramadan. His post, alongside a photo of himself, details his reasons behind undertaking a month of fasting, and talks about the physical and mental benefits of fasting and what he’s hoping to achieve from it.
All the things he mentions are very true – fasting can be beneficial for both your physical and mental health – but what the post is severely lacking in is any sort of mention of Muslims or Islam. This seems an odd move considering how central Ramadan is to Islam, with it being one of its five key pillars.
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims all across the world. It’s a time steeped in spiritual, religious, and cultural significance for us. It’s the month where our holy book, the Quran, was first revealed. It’s also when the gates of Heaven are open so good deeds heed a greater reward for us.
It’s a time for us to stop and really reflect on ourselves, be grateful for our privileges, and if possible, help those in less fortunate situations. It gives us the opportunity to re-connect to our faith and spirituality, which I know for me can sometimes get lost in the busy goings on of everyday life.
It goes far beyond the act of fasting, which is simply one part of Ramadan and not the entirety of it. Understandably, this is one of the main misconceptions about Ramadan. Yes, we fast every day from dawn until dusk for a month, abstaining from all food and drink. But this also includes abstaining from other things like sexual activity, smoking, chewing gum, and speaking badly of people. And to answer a question that I, and many Muslims, always get every year – yes, this even includes water!
Although fasting plays a key part in Ramadan, it’s not the one and only motivation behind this holy month. And arguably, not even the main motivation. Our motivation lies more with maintaining a strong sense of faith and the need to do good.
So when you take this all into consideration, and then look at Professor Green’s post on Ramadan, there’s a definite and rather prominent disconnect. His Instagram post is mostly centred on the physical aspect of fasting, with details and figures relating to health, weight, and body fat highlighted in the post. He does also mention how he hopes it’ll affect his mental health in a positive way, and to come out ‘happier and healthier’.
And this is all great, and in normal circumstances would be a perfectly valid motivation to fast, but to align these reasons with a religious period like Ramadan is misguided, and inadvertently trivialises something that is so meaningful to so many people. It strips Ramadan of its real meaning and turns it into just another quirky health fad.
To share a post on Ramadan but not make any mention to the religion it’s so deeply rooted in is also promoting a misleading view of what Ramadan is and what it actually entails. It’s already quite a misunderstood religious period.
Of course, this is not saying that fasting is a monopoly held by Muslims exclusively. It’s absolutely not. Any person is free to fast and to even take part in Ramadan if they wish to do so. But for non-Muslims who do want to fast alongside Muslims during this time, it’s important to acknowledge its religious significance and to understand that it isn’t just about fasting. And I hope that those who do want to fast with us, will take the time to learn about the meaning behind Ramadan so to better understand and value their own experience of the holy month.