The UAE is home to many non-Muslim expats so, particularly for new arrivals, there can be some confusion around what constitutes respectful behaviour during Ramadan.
We’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts to ensure we all know how to behave compassionately and sensitively during this season.
Fasting for an entire month is both refreshing and challenging for Muslims. It’s important to be mindful that some days, they might be enduring the physiological effects of sleep or food deprivation.
As their friend or simply a considerate individual, there are certain things you can do for people, or avoid doing, to help you remain sensitive to their needs this Ramadan.
Give warm greetings Many muslims will greet you with a ‘Happy Christmas’ and merrily celebrate Thanksgiving with you in the UAE. Why not echo the courtesy and wish them a blessed and healthy Ramadan? You can say ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or just ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (Happy Ramadan).
Be patient Going about the day without that morning cup of coffee, tea and water can be exhausting, some of your colleagues will undoubtedly feel tired at work during this month of fasting. Acknowledging and understanding this is a key part of being supportive.
Be courteous Ramadan is all about self-restraint and whilst most Muslims won’t be offended if you eat or drink around them, not doing so is a gesture of respect and solidarity. It’s also important to note, that it is forbidden to eat, drink or smoke in public places during daylight hours over the course of this month.
Adjust your routine If going for lunch or coffee meetings is the norm at your workplace, look at changing venues away from food and beverage dispensing outlets.
Show an interest As a non-Muslim, you might have a lot of questions about Ramadan, and Islam in general. While being inquisitive is encouraged, be sensible about it. It’s clearly not OK to ask a person with a dry mouth why he must fast for a month and if it poses any health hazards. Ramadan is a time of deep spiritual reflection, so trivial questions like “is fasting a good way to lose weight?” “Don’t you feel hungry?” And “can you eat while nobody is looking?” Can be offensive. This is not what Ramadan is about.
Be aware of others Muslims abstain from watching movies or listening to music during daylight hours in Ramadan. So, if you’re listening to your tunes in a public place or work space – it is it best to use your earphones.
Soak up the spirit of the season Last, but certainly not least, if you are invited to an iftar, don’t turn down the invitation unless circumstances mean you really cannot make it. Take a small box of dates with you as a goodwill gesture because dates are often used to break the fast, and make the most of the experience.