Ramadan started on the 27th of May 2017 in Dubai and if you live in, conduct business in or aim to travel to the Muslim world over the next month, there are several things you absolutely need to know to ensure a smooth Ramadan experience.
Ramadan is a special month of the year for one billion plus Muslims across the planet. The purpose is to encourage a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims consider Ramadan as a fine-tuning of their spiritual lives.
Fasting forms the 3rd “pillar” of Islam’s religious obligations and the practice gives rise to many health, bodily and spiritual benefits, the most important of which is learning self-control and discipline. Fasting is a way of experiencing hunger, providing a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence and allows one to develop empathy for the less fortunate, as well as learning how to give thankfulness and appreciation for all of God’s bounties.
Ramadan is also a time for intensive reading of the Quran, giving to charity, purifying one’s behavior and generally doing good deeds.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is calculated based on a combination of physical sightings of the moon and astronomical calculations. The practice varies from place to place, some places relying heavily on sighting reports and others totally on calculations. The end of Ramadan is marked by the celebration of ‘Eid-ul-Fitr, which is also similarly determined.
Muslims use many phrases in different languages to congratulate one another for the completion of the obligation of fasting and the ‘Eid-ul-Fitr festival. Here are a few for good measure:
- “Kullu am wa antum bi-khair” (May you be well throughout the year) – Arabic
- “Elveda, ey Ramazan” (Farewell, O Ramadan) – Turkish
- “Eid Mubarak” (A Blessed ‘Eid)” – universal
- "Ramadan Kareem", to which wish the recipient a blessed/generous Ramadan
The daily period of fasting commences at the breaking of dawn and ends at the setting of the sun. During the daylight hours, Muslims must totally abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and marital sex. The usual practice is to enjoy a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before dawn and a post-fast meal (iftar) after sunset.
Non-Muslims are also required to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public places during daylight hours as a sign of respect for Muslims. The sale of alcohol is restricted to after sunset, and business/office hours are generally reduced, while shops and parks tend to open and close later. In addition, entertainment such as live music are not permitted and cinemas are expected to limit daytime screenings of films. Another key point, is that women must not wear revealing clothes (mainly short skirts or dresses, see-through clothing or sleeveless shirts). Here is a quick summary of expected behaviors:
- Dress in a more conservative fashion
- Be tolerant, think of others and respect the culture in a happy way
- Avoid eating, drinking & smoking in public areas (from sunrise till sunset)
- Refrain from chewing gum in public (from sunrise till sunset)
- Be extra sensitive, avoid vulgarities, rudeness (no swear words)
- Be understanding that people serving you may be tired during the daylight
- Overall be respectful and avoid confrontation or arrogance towards others