Today we bring you one of the most important events in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan, and tell you how you can show respect as a guest in primarily Muslim countries towards those taking part in this age-old practice. In 2014, Ramadan will take place beginning on June 29th (Sunday) and ending July 29th (Tuesday). The date is rapidly approaching and even for westerners and non-Muslims this date is important, so keep on reading and we’ll do our best to make sure to know the information you need to know to both enjoy and respect this event. For those planning to travel to many places in the world, knowledge of the religion of Islam and its corresponding values means so little, but this should never be the case. In many places around the globe, the Muslim culture becomes Sharia Law, so one should study deeply into these rules and ideals.
But we know what you’re thinking, what are the consequences that I have to be worried about and how do I go about respecting the month of Ramadan and those practicing it? Well, the law varies from country to country but it is always frowned upon, in a social sense at the very least, to openly flout the failure to fast during Ramadan. Below are a few dos and don’ts of Ramadan.
- DO have patience with those whom are fasting (patience is thin!)
- DO wear skirts that fall below the knee whilst sitting
- DO wear sleeves that fall below the elbow
- DO wear full-length trousers
- DON’T wear shorts
- DON’T have a revealing neckline
- DON’T be topless (that means men too!)
- DON’T eat in public or around Muslim colleagues
- DON’T speak angrily to one whom is fasting
- DON’T have a public display of affection (this includes holding hands!)
- DON’T drink alcohol during Ramadan (even after sunset!)
So what is Ramadan? Once a year for between 29 and 30 days, the event of Ramadan takes place. This practice sees fasting during daylight hours of all Muslims undergoing the annual event and isn’t just restricted to food either; drinking liquids, chewing (even swallowing saliva), smoking, sex and sometimes even swearing are also expected to be refrained from during this time. Ramadan is obligatory for Muslims whom have reached puberty but not those whom are severely ill (physically or mentally), pregnant, breast-feeding, menstruating or traveling, but the fast is thought to reward those whom practice it greatly and sees an increased number of prayers and recitation of Quran verses.
During this month it is also much more commonplace to give to charity, not just through money but also through food donations. Additionally, many Muslim countries see decorations and lights set up to celebrate the event, as well as lanterns which in recent times have become symbolic of the practice and is believed to have begun during the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt (and subsequently have become even more frequent in Egypt than the rest of the world during Ramadan). However, the most amazing part of the event is that the evening meal (Iftar), consumed after sunset, is often extended to relatives and even families and individuals around the neighbourhood, turning what would normally be a family meal into a buffet-style social gathering and see food such as lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebab with grilled vegetables and roast chicken served with chickpea-studded rice pilaf.