By Tayiba Ahmed
Every year more than a billion Muslims from all around the world fast for a period of one month. This is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, the holy month of Ramadan. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and Muslims fast for this one month duration daily from dawn till sunset. While Muslims in some countries have to fast for around nine hours, fasting time in some of northern hemisphere countries can last for more than 20 hours.
As a non-Muslim, one might wonder why an entire community would chose follow this act so religiously. There are several reasons why the Muslim community takes the month of Ramadan so seriously. For one, since it is one of the five pillars of Islam, fasting is seen as one of the greatest forms of worship. It also is believed to help one’s spirituality and self-discipline, since fasting not only requires one to refrain from lawful acts such as eating and drinking, but it also requires one to abstain from committing any acts that are viewed as being sinful in Islam; these can be acts such as gossiping or backbiting. Muslims are also encouraged to do acts of kindness, and worship their God as much as they can during this month by praying, reading the Qur’an and giving charity, because it is believed that each righteous act is rewarded more during this month than any other time of the year. Moreover, by not eating and drinking and by suppressing one’s desires, it is believed that fasting allows one to feel more compassionate towards the less fortunate, and truly appreciate the blessings bestowed upon them, which are often taken for granted. Also, during this month all the fasting Muslims around the world follow a similar routine, which creates a sense of brotherhood amongst the Muslim community.
If you are a non-Muslim living in a Muslim country, or are around people from the Muslim community during the month of Ramadan, here is a list of etiquette that you should follow:
- Do not eat, drink or smoke in public
It is easily understandable that eating or drinking in front of a Muslim who has been fasting is like tempting them and as common courtesy, it should be avoided when possible. However, in some countries, such as the UAE, it is not just unethical but also illegal to eat or drink in public places during the fasting hours. Even doing so in public or private transport could land you in trouble. Smoking in public is also prohibited.
- Dress modestly
During Ramadan, make sure to avoid wearing revealing clothing. This would include clothes made out of sheer cloth, tight-fitting clothes, clothes with low-cut necklines, or ones showing too much skin.
- Do not listen to loud music
Refrain from listening to loud music when out. Also avoid loud music in cars.
- Be aware of workplace rules
In most Muslim countries, office hours are reduced during Ramadan. If you are a non-Muslim working with Muslim colleagues, be aware of this when scheduling meetings or work events.
- Avoid public display of affection
In most Muslim countries public display of affection is already frowned upon. However, during the month of Ramadan, it is highly unacceptable to engage in those.
If you want to do more during Ramadan, you can help out with charity work, or volunteer to distributing food during Iftar time. You can even join Muslims in celebrating the Eid festival that follows Ramadan.
Ramadan Mubarak to the American University of Sharjah community.
Tayiba Ahmed is a student at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah