Doing business during Ramadan

This Friday, May 26, Muslims worldwide will begin their 30-day observance of Ramadan. This marks the time, according to Islam, that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

During Ramadan, non-Muslims with Muslim friends, colleagues, and employees and/or those working with Muslim organizations or doing business in predominantly Muslim countries, may want to note the following:

  • Although many Muslims fast during Ramadan (from sunrise to sunset), some do not. Those who are exempt include children (usually under 12), pregnant or breastfeeding women, the elderly, and those who are ill or have certain health conditions. If a Muslim colleague or business acquaintance isn’t fasting and the reason isn’t clear, it is considered impolite to ask why.
  • If you’re an employer with Muslim employees, permitting a more flexible work schedule may be helpful.
  • In some Muslim countries, places such as banks may close several times a day for prayer or the workday may be shortened, especially if it’s in the public sector. In non-Muslim countries, companies with many Muslim employees may also adjust their hours.
  • If you’re traveling right before sunset in a Muslim country, keep in mind that traffic will probably be heavier, and public transit busier, as most people are rushing home for the evening meal (iftar).
  • If you’re invited to an iftar, which is often a lavish feast, make every effort to attend. Also, in some places, restaurants and hotels set up special tents for this meal, as well as the suhoor (morning meal), with traditional foods and beverages.
  • Alcohol may be less available than usual in Muslim countries. Places that would normally serve it to non-Muslims, such as hotel bars, may refrain from doing so during Ramadan. Other places may just be closed. Also, in some Muslim countries, it’s a crime to eat, drink, or smoke in public at this time.
  • While it is always advisable to dress modestly in a Muslim country, this is particularly true during Ramadan.
  • Breakfast and dinner meetings can be scheduled if they’re before sunrise or after sunset.
  • Companies doing business with Muslims or in Muslim countries may also wish to expand their charitable activities during Ramadan, as a gesture of goodwill.