Ramadan also spelled RamazanRamzanRamadhan or Ramathan, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. A commemoration of Muhammad’s first revelation, the annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam and lasts twenty-nine to thirty days, from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next.

Fasting from dawn to sunset is fard (obligatory) for all adult Muslims who are not acutely or chronically ill, traveling, elderly, breastfeeding, diabetic, or menstruation. The pre-dawn meal is referred to as suhur, and the nightly feast that breaks the fast is called iftar.

The spiritual rewards of fasting are believed to be multiplied during Ramadan. Accordingly, Muslims refrain not only from food and drink, but also from tobacco products, sexual relations, and sinful behavior devoting themselves instead to prayer and recitation of the Quran.

Every month FAND highlights a member in relation to a DEI topic. April has several religious holidays and celebrations. This month we highlight one of our FAND members who practice the Muslim religion, Afaf Qasem. She shares some insight on Ramadan, which is observed in April as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community.


Why did you decide to pursue this profession and how did your ethnicity and faith play into that decision?

I chose to become a public health dietitian because I want to help improve the health and wellness programs and services in our communities. I am passionate about chronic disease prevention and management such as diabetes and heart disease. My faith, like many other faiths, stresses the importance of helping others and caring from one another in an ethical manner. The dietetic profession also supports and teaches us the skills to ensure that we are providing the most ethical and appropriate care to keep our patients and communities safe and healthy.


What are the challenges and/or triumphs you have faced as a RDN?

As a dietitian, one of the challenges I face is making sure our community knows the importance of sustainable, long-term behavior change as opposed short lived “diet” culture. I always share this important note- it is all about the small, healthy behavior changes that make a lasting impact overtime.


What are some of your favorite foods and why is it your favorite?

My favorite food is called Mansaf- it’s a super unique dish that is made with dried yogurt that is boiled and seasoned, eaten with yellow rice and lamb. It is my favorite because it reminds me of the Middle East and when I lived there, but mostly because it reminds me of family and friend gatherings.


Ramadan is approaching. What can you tell us about the customs related to food during this time?  

Ramadan is the holiest month of the year, it is when we practice more patience, prayer, and worship. During Ramadan, we fast from food and water from sunrise to sunset making the time we break fast one that is filled with traditional dishes and desserts and most importantly, family time!


What steps do you take to counsel a patient from a different culture and racial group?

It is extremely important to acknowledge that we are all different, including the foods we choose to eat every day. I always seek to understands the persons cultural food preferences before I provide any recommendations because the advice I provide falls heavily on whether or not a patient or community is able and willing to engage in the behavior. A goal and plan that is created should foster the persons heritage and food preferences in order to create something sustainable and life-changing.


What advice do you have for dietitians about diversity, equity and inclusivity in our profession?

The best advice I can give a fellow dietitian, dietitian technician, and dietetic intern is to never assume the patient or client’s food preference, we are all different and we make choices based on personal, culture, and religious preferences! Consistently work on your cultural humility and competence. The more knowledge you have and more skills you gain, the better and more well-rounded dietitian you will become! Also, use health equity in your practice- ask yourself: does the advice I give, knowledge I share, and change I want to recommend, foster equitable health and wellness for all people regardless of their background.