Ramadan is finally here – so here’s a great, big Ramadan Mubarak to you! As a Gen Z community with an American Muslim CEO and other American Muslims within our leadership, we’re super excited to bring you the authentic feels of what Ramadan means to Gen Z and answers to whether we want brands to come along for this spiritual celebration.
What is Ramadan and why do we celebrate it?
Ramadan is a month-long festival celebrated by Muslims across the globe. With over 3.5 million American Muslims, the sacred festival is not typically highlighted despite its massive reach. Observers refrain from eating and drink from dawn ‘til dusk (and yes it means not drinking water)! The fast is initiated with suhoor — the pre-fast meal at dawn—and sealed with iftar—the sunset meal that closes the fast.
Ramadan is a time of spiritual renewal for many Muslims. While Islamic teachings emphasize keeping our bond with Allah (Arabic for “God”) throughout the year, Ramadan acts as the annual reminder to refresh our commitment to this relationship. It’s a time of spirituality, community, and new habits.
For Youssef Hasweh, Social Media Specialist at JUV, Ramadan “is a fresh start for a lot of Muslims. A chance to break bad habits and truly be in touch with our faith.”
Additionally, many Muslims use the month to give back — whether through physically helping their community or through donating to important causes. Many give their annual charity obligation, known as Zakat, during Ramadan with its auspicious days and promise of multiplied reward for good deeds done during the month.
Globally, up to $1 trillion is spent on Zakat giving annually. Research from 2020 showed that UK-based Muslim charities on average expected to raise 40% of their annual income during Ramadan.
The Gen Z experience of Ramadan
For a generation of Muslim Gen Zers, Ramadan is important as we use it to embed habits that are true to the enlightened values of our religion— empathy, spirituality and kindness. Youssef says it helps to ingrain these habits and values as “the ones we keep for life.”
For Gen Z,our experience of Ramadan is augmented by our connectedness to each other through our virtual world. We feel our community spirit through the extended online Muslim population that includes our affinity to the 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide.
During our first pandemic Ramadan last year, we quickly adapted. We used our native digital spaces to create the community feeling that is a bedrock of Ramadan. 2020was all about the “virtual iftars, group evening prayers, and all the amazing videos of people’s experiences on my [TikTok ‘For You’ Page],” says Youssef.
True to the Gen Z spirit, we use humor to pass the time spent in the pangs of hunger. The amount of memes and videos depicting the relatable and funny moments that Ramadan brings with it truly gives us many belly laughs.
Should brands join in on the celebration?
We always stress how vital authenticity is for Gen Z, and in this arena, it is no different. We don’t want an odd ‘Happy Ramadan’ post on social media, but genuine engagement with the experience. It’s in the line of other such holidays, like Lunar New Year, where brands need to ensure they engage in a way that feels right for the occasion rather than simply for marketing purposes.
Amani Ahmed, Director of Operations at JUV Consulting, says that she’s “always surprised” when brands talk about Ramadan in any substantive way, referencing the lack of engagement around the occasion. But she feels that it is truly welcome, for example, when “restaurants [do] Iftar or Suhoor specials” or even campaigns that “acknowledged the experience of Muslims and decided to contribute in honor of Ramadan” with it being a time of giving. One particular example is how Doordash has partnered with The Zakat Foundation of America to give out thousands of meals during the month to help with food poverty.
While Ramadan may be thought of as yet another marketing opportunity, it’s out of step with what the festival is about, namely about reconnecting spiritually, and it’s important to respect that. Is your brand honoring the occasion, or pandering to a growing sector?
And with that, off I go to make food for Suhoor!
JUV Consulting is a Gen Z collective that works with companies to create purpose-driven and authentic marketing campaigns that engage young audiences. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn how to reach Gen Z, or sign up for our weekly newsletter, The Screenshot, to get Gen Z insights straight to your inbox.