Approximate 2019 U.S. Ramadan dates: the evening of May 5 to the evening of June 4
This May, Muslims worldwide share in fasting, festive dinners, and faith. Ramadan is crucial to Islam, so we share key information that will be helpful when conducting business with Muslim counterparts or traveling abroad:
- The General Fasting Process
Perhaps the most popular information about Ramadan is fasting. The point of which is to increase understanding and sympathy for those less fortunate. During this time, Muslims fast for eleven to sixteen hours a day. Typically, fasting begins around dawn and ends at sunset. To prepare and begin their fast, Muslims usually eat breakfast at before dawn, pray, and bless their fast. For the rest of the day, they refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking.
- Activities during Ramadan
Speaking kindly and thinking positively of others and the world is a recommended Ramadan practice. If you are conducting business overseas or spending time with a Muslim friend observing Ramadan, keep that in mind. Work hours are decreased during the month of Ramadan in many Muslim countries. Additionally, the purpose of Ramadan is to increase religious awareness and be more observant of God, so Muslims do a number of things to self-reflect and pay respects to the religion. For example, giving extra charity, or Zakaat, is a common act of kindness during Ramadan.
- Ramadan across Borders
In many Islamic countries, there are laws pertaining to the month of Ramadan. If you are living abroad or traveling for a business trip in a predominantly Muslim country, it is important to be respectful of those rules. For example, some countries, like the United Arab Emirates, have strict Ramadan laws and expect all citizens, residents, and expats to dress modestly and refrain from eating and drinking in public. So, if you are traveling abroad during this holy month, particularly in the Middle East or North Africa, be sure to understand the laws around Ramadan. Ask around and make sure you have the proper information.
- Considerations for Prayer Times
Praying five times a day on a regular basis and during Ramadan are equally as important. Here are five prayers that take place throughout the day on a regular schedule.
1) Fajr- the prayer at dawn
2) Dhuhr- the prayer at noon
3) Asr- the prayer in the afternoon
4) Maghrib- the prayer at sunset
5) Isha’a- the prayer at night
If you are living or traveling abroad in predominantly Muslim cities or countries, like Dubai, it is common for the Azaan, or call to prayer, to be recited over a loudspeaker five times a day. Many Muslims follow the five prayers’ schedule. At these particular times of day, Muslims may step out to pray. Schedule business meetings to avoid disrupting regimented prayer times.
- Iftar: Breaking the Fast
Finally, Muslims break their fast in the evening at sunset. At this time, Muslims invite friends and family to break the fast. It is a festive occasion celebrated with food. If you are invited to a coworker’s Iftar, it is common to bring a food gift of dates, or a dish for the host. Friends and family reflect on their fast and respectfully eat dinner. Festive foods change regionally; however date fruits hold religious and cultural importance for Iftar!
Ramadan builds spiritual awareness as a happy and special occasion. Understanding how Muslims celebrate this holy month is integral to understanding a key part of the Islamic faith. Respect, altruism, and joy are all characteristics of Ramadan, where Muslims can come together and respect the faith and practice as a whole. With proper knowledge about Ramadan, we can be respectful of these customs and practices. Ramadan Kareem to all!
Sharon Schweitzer and Sophia Syed co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, attorney, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide (Wiley 2015), now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Sophia Syed was a Spring 2017 cross-cultural communication intern with Access to Culture. As a third-culture kid who has lived abroad in Dubai, Jamaica, and Singapore, she has interacted with different nationalities in both a professional and personal setting. She was a Dubai student representative for the Global Issues Network Conference in Luxembourg in the Spring of 2015, where she discussed economic, environmental and human rights issues with representatives of 70 countries. She currently attends the University of Texas at Austin as a double major in Corporate Communication and Communication Sciences.