On Wednesday, June 17, Islam’s holiest month of the year begins. Called Ramadan, it marks the time when Islam’s primary religious text, the Quran, was believed to be revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Ramadan dates vary, as it’s observed according to the lunar calendar (as is Easter and the Chinese New Year, for example) and not the solar calendar. The beginning date also changes from one country to another.

Muslims observe Ramadan in several ways; these include praying, performing additional charitable acts, refraining from smoking, and fasting. Of these, the latter is perhaps the most widely known aspect among non-Muslims, as it consists of abstaining from all food and drink between sunrise and sunset.

Ramadan2015During Ramadan, non-Muslims doing business in countries with large Muslim populations or working with Muslim colleagues may want to keep in mind the following:

  • Not all Muslims fast; some are exempt for personal or health reasons (e.g., pregnancy, age, and illness). In the business world, however, chances are that most healthy adults will be fasting. If someone isn’t, it is considered impolite to ask why.
  • In predominantly Muslim countries, it’s not “business as usual.” Business activity is often reduced and the business day may end earlier, as people are hungry and tired. It may be helpful to reconfirm meetings and reschedule as needed.
  • In lieu of the lunch meeting, early risers may want to consider meeting for the pre-dawn meal (Suhoor).
  • It is considered a sign of respect to avoid eating and drinking in front of someone who is fasting. The same applies to chewing gum and smoking.
  • In some predominantly Muslim countries, restaurants close during Ramadan, as well as pubs and movie theaters. Restaurants that do stay open may refrain from serving alcohol.
  • If invited to an Iftar dinner, the meal eaten after sunset, accept the invitation. It’s not only a sign of respect that can help cement relationships, but will most likely be a feast!
  • The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday that in many Muslim countries goes well beyond this. At this time, work stops in many sectors, or considerably slows.

For more helpful tips on Do’s and Don’ts during Ramadan, check out Expat Echo: http://www.expatechodubai.com/whats-on/ramadan-dos-and-donts/#more-92871