April 3 marks the first day of this year's Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it's when Muslims all over the world observe the act of fasting.
This means no consumption of food or drinks from dawn to sunset for an entire month, among other things.
"Not even a sip of water?" we've been asked countless times.
No, not even a sip of water.
Living in a melting pot of cultures and races called Singapore, most of us have been blessed with friends and colleagues who try their best to make our lives easier during the fasting month.
On the contrary, however, here are some things that would help you to help us navigate this blessed month with ease.
1. Don't feel bad for eating or drinking in front of us
At some point, you might be clutching a thick, juicy, beef burger in your hands while wondering if eating it in front of us is considered rude.
But no, we don't find it rude if you start eating or drinking in plain sight.
If anything, you might have just given us some inspiration for what we're going to break our fast with.
I've had friends who turn away or resort to running to the toilet to eat their food for fear of offending me.
I'll say it again: It's really okay to eat or drink in front of us.
2. No special treatment, please
Don't get us wrong, it warms the cockles of our hearts when our friends go out of the way to make us feel comfortable.
This includes giving their seat to us in the train or skipping lunch so that we can have dinner together.
But seriously, though. You really don't have to.
We're not going to lie, fasting for an entire month is not easy but that's exactly why we do it.
One of the reasons why Muslims abstain from food, drinks and other desires during Ramadan is to inculcate the value of compassion in ourselves.
Depriving ourselves of satiety is when we can truly empathise with the less fortunate, who often go through days with little to eat.
And not giving us any special treatment will help us to achieve our purpose.
3. Don’t act weird when you see us eating stealthily
"Eh, you're not fasting?!" a classmate said out loud as I crouched under my desk with my head burrowed in my bag, thinking I could sneak in a sip of green tea.
And then, all eyes were on me so I felt obligated to tell the entire classroom that I was on my period.
In case you didn't know, when a woman menstruates, it would invalidate their fast for the day.
In hindsight, perhaps I could have been more discreet.
But the next time you see your female Muslim friend or colleague eating or drinking during the fasting month, just act normal and know that they have their reasons.
Talking about periods over a meal is already awkward.
Explaining that I'm eating during the fasting month because I'm on my period will only make it weirder.
This brings us to the next point...
4. Just because I'm not fasting doesn't make me a bad Muslim
Some might be quick to judge a Muslim for not fasting, but before you do, know that some Muslims might have a valid reason.
Besides menstruation, there are various reasons why a Muslim can be exempted from fasting which might not be immediately obvious.
These include, but are not be limited to illness, chronic medical conditions, postnatal bleeding, pregnancy, and breastfeeding mothers who believe that fasting for long hours might cause harm to themselves or their babies.
Ultimately, who are we to judge how someone else observes their faith, right?
5. It's not a torturous month for us, really
We may seem physically lethargic, no thanks to the early pre-dawn meals and of course, the lack of food and water.
However, Ramadan is a month that a lot of us look forward to the most.
Why do we look forward to starving ourselves, you ask?
Because, as cliche as it sounds, it's more than just that.
For one, it brings families together.
The dining table would be filled with food and conversations because families would spend most of the month having sahur (pre-dawn meal) and iftar (break fast meal) together.
For another, it makes the community spirit stronger because of activities like the terawih prayers (a non-obligatory evening prayer during the month of Ramadan) and mass iftar meals at mosque.
My favourite thing to do, however, is to collect the free bubur masjid (directly translates to "mosque porridge"), a savoury porridge with minced meat and vegetables, from the various mosques around Singapore.
So don't feel bad for us, we're probably having the time of our lives.
Top image from Masjid Sultan/Facebook