'Palestine brought me here': Meet the non-Muslims embracing Ramadan like never before

6 min read
02 April, 2024

Ramadan is the spiritual leveller. For Muslims, there’s no other time like it; it’s the month of deprivation on multiple levels – food, drink, bad habits, behaviours and thoughts – all in the pursuit of glorifying and getting closer to God.

But not everyone is fasting for this reason.

These are non-Muslims who have committed to participating in Ramadan, not necessarily to know Allah better, but to exercise discipline, commitment and wilful relinquishing of our base desires.

Another driver has been Israel's brutal onslaught on Palestinian lives in Gaza. Many are witnessing the strength, resilience and dignity of Palestinians who maintain their faith every day.

I spoke to non-Muslims around the world observing the entire month of Ramadan, to learn about their motivations to keep going. 

"The genocide occurring in Gaza absolutely contributes to my fasting for Ramadan. Palestine has brought me back to where I never knew I belonged — with Allah"

Fasting in solidarity with Palestine this Ramadan

Carolyn, a photographer from Ohio, U.S., cites multiple reasons for fasting, Palestine chief among them. The 32-year-old has had a tumultuous life, enduring abuse, multiple foster care homes, and overzealous parents enforcing Christianity.

One of the most positive influences in her life, she says, was a stepfather named Muhammed who even took Carolyn to Palestine. Despite only being a child, the violence of occupation has stayed in Carolyn’s mind.

"I stood in those checkpoints for hours, terrified, sweating, and feeling trapped like an animal," she explains. "I had experienced a tiny sliver of a fraction of what Palestinians are subjected to daily and I was beyond petrified."

Open iftars are a great way to increase social recognition for Muslims in the public space [Getty Images]

Though she hasn’t converted yet but plans to, Carolyn believes Allah has been watching out for her. She says: "Allah knew I needed Mohammed before I did. Nothing is by chance for Allah is the best of planners. This is one of many reasons I’ve decided to observe Ramadan."

Carolyn has shared her experiences on TikTok where she’s been received warmly by Muslims and beyond. Her embrace of Islam though has also courted zionist attention, with some leaving Israel flags in her comments.

In response, Carolyn simply shares Quran verses. ​​These instances have only vindicated Carolyn’s beliefs. "The genocide occurring in Gaza absolutely contributes to my fasting for Ramadan. Palestine has brought me back to where I never knew I belonged — with Allah."

An appreciation of Islam

Another person who is fasting this Ramadan, as a spectator and not as someone considering converting, is Shon Pittman, a visual artist from Georgia, U.S.

Shon says: "What gravitated me to Ramadan was the level of discipline needed. The first week was the most challenging and I questioned myself several times on why I’m even doing this, especially as a non-Muslim but, Allah reminded me it was for Him and a bigger purpose. So I pushed through the headaches, hunger, schedule adjustments and irritation. Once I crossed that hill, the journey became more of a breeze."

Shon also reflects on how she takes strength from watching Palestinians fast, pray, and make do with what they have. "Their faith is unwavering and that is truly commendable. It has truly been an inspiration and has made me grateful for the life and resources that I have taken for granted. I have been learning more about the Islamic religion because I wanted to really understand why this religion is vilified by the media the way it is."

While Shon searches for answers of her own, she has been supported by loved ones, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and by a positive online community. 


Assimilating into Islamic culture

For others, Ramadan has become a point of interest due to its proximity to Islamic culture. This is true for Kai Charles, a marketing consultant, 31, who lives in Dubai.

She explains: "Having lived in Dubai for seven years now, I have come to admire the time of year when a whole collective of people around the world are doing the same thing at the same time. That is so powerful to me and disciplined. I wanted to take this time for myself to pause, reflect, detox and cleanse.

"Over the years, I wanted to understand the culture more as I have come across many people ranging from Emirates, Arabs and Africans and others in between who are Muslim and we have had great discussions about the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam; something I never really understood or explored growing up in a Catholic school system in London."

Kai says residing in a Muslim country has made it easier as Islamic culture is part of the ethos and there are provisions like being able to take shorter work days, adding, "I used to think the shorter work days were because people were hungry or moody with low energy but now I understand it's probably because of the sleep routine."

Something that surprised Kai, but most Muslims are accustomed to, is how the fasting appetite changes. "I love food and sweets but I am not as hungry as I thought I would be most days and when I do eat, I can only eat and drink small amounts," adds Kai. 

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Discipline to the cause

For 23-year-old Micahh Elliot, Ramadan is about self-discipline and challenging one’s needs. The model and content creator from London is now on his third Ramadan.

"I enjoy the challenge aspect of Ramadan," he explains. "I enjoy learning and submerging myself into new cultures and becoming less naive to them and I also enjoy the 'togetherness' aspect. I visited a mosque for the first time and the people there could recognise that I wasn’t Muslim but they welcomed me with open arms and expressed how happy they were to see me."

The welcoming nature of Muslims has spurred Micahh to keep going every year. He says: "I’ve loved every second of this Ramadan and I’ve loved meeting and interacting with Muslims across the UK and the world in real life and on social media.

"The most surprising element I’ve found is my consistency and discipline to the cause." Micahh credits his followers and Muslim friends for keeping him accountable with feedback, tips and help to keep going. 

For Muslims, Ramadan means everything. It's a chance to renew our intention, to be the best version of ourselves and to abstain from our vices. Now, non-Muslims are starting to recognise its beauty. Ramadan really is the best of months. 

Faima Bakar is a freelance journalist writing about race, religion, feminism, and all the ideas she gets when she's on the underground

Follow her on X: @FaimaBakar