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Everything you need to know about Ramadan

Everything you need to know about Ramadan

Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking or smoking between sunrise and sunset

As Muslims across the world begin observing Ramadan, here is what you need to know about the holy month.

What is Ramadan?

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking or smoking between sunrise and sunset.

Lasting about a month, it marks the time when the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Extra tarawih prayers are performed at the mosque throughout Ramadan and each evening 1/30th of the holy book is recited. By the end of Ramadan, many observers have read the entire Quran.

Why is Ramadan so important to Muslims?

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, which are the foundation of the religion. The pillars are the framework by which Muslims everywhere live, and Ramadan is considered the holiest time in the Islamic calendar. It is a time for prayer, reflection and religious devotion, to cleanse past sins and to focus on Allah through good deeds.

Why do Muslims fast?

Fasting, or sawn, loosely translates as ‘to refrain’. So during Ramadan Muslims commit to not eating, drinking, smoking or even chewing gum during daylight hours. But sawn isn’t just about physical restraint, it also refers to bad thoughts, actions and words.

Many people assume that Ramadan is about deprivation, but in Islam it’s often a time to spend with family, breaking fast at sunset over iftar. The fast itself is intended to help Muslims learn about self-discipline and restraint, and enable them to empathise with those who have less.

When does Ramadan begin?

Moon sighting committees across the region look for the crescent moon to determine when the holy month begins.

The Gulf countries decide the beginning of Ramadan based on the Islamic calendar, which is linked to the moon’s 29 and a half-day monthly cycle. Islamic months can be 29 or 30 days based on the appearance of the moon crescent at night.

However, it is up to each country to decide when it will mark the holy month.

This year, the UAE and Saudi Arabia confirmed that Ramadan has started on Monday, May 6.

Does everything close during the day?

Many cafés and restaurants remain open during Ramadan, but may have shorter or different opening times so it’s best to call before. The places that are open during the daytime are likely to have curtains or panels in place to conceal people eating and drinking from those fasting.

Everything tends to happen much later in the day during Ramadan. The malls close even later than usual, with many staying open well after midnight.

Are there different work hours?

For both public and private sector staff the day will typically be shorter. In the UAE, public sector working hours will be from 9am to 2pm.

For the private sector, work hours in the UAE have been reduced by two hours.

Read: Ramadan timings announced for the UAE’s private sector

What about eating and drinking for non-Muslims?

Non-Muslims can still eat and drink but must do so discreetly. In offices, consumption is typically not allowed at desks and workers must go to specified areas. Eating and drinking in public and in cars should definitely be avoided as should chewing gum and smoking.

Do I need to do anything differently during the day?

It’s important for everyone to dress and behave appropriately during the holy month. Even those who aren’t fasting should make sure that their clothes are modest, covering shoulders, chest and knees. Keep music levels down to a minimum when you’re driving and, of course, no public displays of affection.

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