Ramadan etiquette for non-Muslims

Tuesday May 17 2011

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan, is one of the most important periods in the Muslim year. It is a time of spiritual awakening, self-evaluation and remembrance of Allah, which Muslims observe through fasting and prayer. Ramadan teaches Muslims self-discipline, humility and giving. Charity is a significant part of Ramadan and Muslims are expected to help the needy.

For more than a billion Muslims around the world, it is a time for devotion to God and self-restraint, when communal nightly prayers are conducted and the basic teachings of Islam are emphasised and Ummah (Islamic nation) consciousness is heightened.

Since Ramadan is a time of piety and high religious consciousness, it would be considerate for non-Muslims to adapt their lifestyle during the month as well.

Here are a few tips to follow during Ramadan:

• Eating and drinking in public is banned across the UAE during Ramadan, and strict penalties are levied on those who break the rule. Most eateries are closed during the day for the month, but some restaurants do offer delivery services.

• Avoid eating or drinking in front of colleagues who are fasting in office.

• Dress and behave modestly, avoiding animated behaviour that could cause offence.

• Try to understand Ramadan better by involving yourself in the spirit of the month. Saying `Ramadan Kareem` to Muslims and attending a fast-breaking feast, or iftar, would be appreciated by most Muslims.

• Do not play live music as it is banned through the month.

• Shopping malls and supermarkets are expected to be open late at night.

• Since cultural consciousness is also high during the month, Ramadan can be a good time to connect with the local and Muslim cultural scene by attending the various musical and social events, as well as trying local and regional cuisine that is popular during the month of fasting.