Not a Muslim? Not a problem!

Arab Business Review
Reading Time: 
2.5 min
  • The holy month of Ramadan has arrived. It is happy occasion for Muslims around the world and a festive season in the Middle East. 
  • The article highlights some pointers to help non-Muslims understand the cultural (and/or legal) aspect of Ramadan in the region especially in the workplace. 
  • The Arab Business Review team wishes everyone a Ramadan Mubarak!
The holy month of Ramadan has arrived. It is the 9th month in the lunar Islamic calendar as well as a happy occasion for Muslims around the world. It is a period of prayer, fasting (from sunrise to sunset), charity giving and self-accountability. If you are visiting or have recently moved to the Middle East during this time you will notice a few things: the festive atmosphere associated with the month in most regions, the opening hours of businesses and organizations are altered to suit prayer times, and there will be high traffic around mosques—especially in the evenings. Here are some pointers to help non-Muslims understand the cultural (and/or legal) aspect of Ramadan: 
Meet and Greet: As a friendly gesture acknowledge the arrival of the month by extending greetings to your Muslim friends and colleagues by saying “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem.” 
The Headache Factor: Fasting is not easy. It means no water in the heat and no smoking or coffee—for those addicts among you. Around midday you will notice a drop in your colleagues’ energy levels, so to help them preserve their energy avoid extra lengthy discussions and do not take it personally if they are not in the mood to chat or socialize. 
Slacking-off Attitude: Unfortunately many employees will use Ramadan as an excuse to slack off and be unproductive. If you are in a position of power do not accept this, fasting is not an excuse to be lazy. However, do not expect or ask your employees to work overtime during this month. 
Lunch at the Office: While non-Muslims are NOT expected to fast during Ramadan, Muslim Middle Eastern countries (especially the Gulf region) forbid public eating and drinking. Cafes and restaurants will be closed during the fasting hours. Despite this law, it is a common practice within private companies and multinational firms for non-fasting employees to bring food from home and quietly eat in the kitchen, but this depends on the company’s culture.
Awkward Questions: Not all Muslims are practitioners, just like any other religion, so refrain from asking your colleagues if they are fasting or not—or why they aren’t fasting—if you happen to find them eating or drinking. Finally, keep the information to yourself and do not disclose it to others. 
Time Management: If you are planning a project, please keep in mind that Ramadan working hours are shorter than normal working hours in most countries. Furthermore, if you have external meetings add at least an extra half hour to your usual commute time as roads are always congested during the month.  
Safety on the Road: Accident rates tend to rise during Ramadan. This is sad, but true. Be safe on the road and avoid leaving the office or commuting around sunset as this is Iftar time (the meal that breaks the fast) and many people will rush to be home on time making it very risky to be on the road. 
Many tourists and visitors enjoy their stay in the region during this holy month as they experience the full flavor of it. We hope that this article has brought you a step closer to understanding the Arabic and Muslim culture as our objective is to increase transparency and to disrupt what can and cannot be spoken of. If you like this article share it with others. The Arab Business Review team wishes everyone a Ramadan Mubarak!