Ramadan in 2020 will be slightly different in the UAE, due to the ongoing bid to contain coronavirus and the stringent measures across the country regarding leaving the house. However, it is still the most important month of the Islamic calendar, and needs to be respected as we all stay at home.
During Ramadan, drinking and eating in public is considered very offensive and can even attract a fine or a reprimand from the police.
If an individual wants to eat or drink in daylight hours during Ramadan it has to be done indoors and out of sight.
In 2020, Ramadan is likely to be from Thursday April 23 until Saturday May 23, though an official announcement is still being waited on.
Ramadan starts when the crescent moon (called hilal) coincides with the astronomical new moon. The exact date is decided by the UAE’s Moon Sighting Committee, agreed upon by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department and announced through WAM, the UAE’s official news agency.
If you live in the UAE, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the etiquette and everything you need to know.
Time Out has produced a useful beginner's guide on Ramadan etiquette to give you all the details and help you understand this important time.
What are the rules regarding dress during Ramadan?
It is recommended that both men and women dress conservatively during the month of Ramadan. Not doing so may offend those who are fasting. Individuals must refrain from wearing revealing and/or tight clothing and at the very least ensure shoulders and knees are well covered.
Are people permitted to listen to music during the month of Ramadan?
People in general must refrain from listening to music loudly during Ramadan, as it may offend those who are fasting. However, it is acceptable to listen to music on your smartphone or iPod with the aid of headphones. Music shouldn’t be played loudly from balconies or within your house.
What is Ramadan?
It’s the Holy Month in the Islamic Calendar, when Muslims fast (also known as sawm) from sunrise to sunset for approximately 30 days. Doing so is one of the five pillars of Islam. The dates change annually as they’re determined by the sighting of a new moon – for many Muslims, from Saudi Arabia. The start and end of Ramadan will be declared the day before.
The dates in 2020
When is Ramadan? On or around Thursday April 23 to Saturday May 23
When is Eid al-Fitr? On or around Saturday May 23 to Sunday May 24
When is Eid al-Adha? On or around Thursday July 30 to Sunday August 2
Can non-Muslims get involved?
Definitely. Although this year iftars are likely to be different due to social distancing – and therefore spent at home – you can still get involved. Here are a few ways you can get involved…
• Exchange Ramadan greetings, especially at the beginning of the month. The word ‘Kareem’ in the phrase ‘Ramadan Kareem’ is the equivalent to ‘generous’, so the expression means ‘Wish you generous Ramadan’.
• Get into the charitable spirit during the Holy Month by donating to Ramadan camps, care packages and other charity organisations.
• Fast along with your Muslim colleagues for a day or two and break the fast together on a video app such as Zoom at the time of iftar.
• Order in or cook iftar with your household.
What is iftar and suhoor?
Iftar is the meal to break the fast after sunset. Typically, people will enjoy dates, dried apricots and Ramadan juices, before heading to evening prayer. After that, large meals are the norm, usually with family and friends. Suhoor is a meal taken just before sunrise, before the day of fasting starts. Many hotels host smaller buffets, traditional activities and more to celebrate until the small hours of the morning.
Are there any exceptions where it is acceptable to publicly break the fast?
Generally, fasting is not recommended to people who suffer from medical conditions or women who are pregnant. However, the same rules apply to them as well – not to eat or drink in public places and to use designated screened-off areas in public that are well hidden from view.
What is the significance of charity during Ramadan?
Charity is a very important part of Islam and is even more significant during Ramadan. However, you don’t have to be a Muslim to give during Ramadan. There are plenty of charitable initiatives, Ramadan camps, iftar camps, care packages and more, all of which can be contributed to.
What is Eid and why are there two?
Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are the main two annual Islamic celebrations. Eid al-Fitr translates as the ‘festival of breaking the fast’ and happens immediately after Ramadan. Charity is known as zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, and is particularly significant during Ramadan and the Eids.
Eid al-Adha is the second celebration in the year and translates as the ‘festival of sacrifice’. And that’s just what it is as, traditionally during this time, animals like sheep and goats are slaughtered. It’s approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan, and marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (another pillar of Islam). For many, it’s required to do the slaughter yourself and is often seen as a rite of passage for Muslim boys. Traditionally, one third of the meat is kept for the family, another third is given to friends and relatives, and the last third is given to the less fortunate. Both Eids are national public holidays that typically last three days (often longer for some sectors), so expect government departments, shops and businesses to be closed.
Impress your Muslim colleagues and friends or simply stop a stranger in the street and rattle off a few of these (reasonably) easy to use phrases during Ramadan:
Ramadan mubarak = Blessed Ramadan
Ramadan kareem = Happy / generous Ramadan
Iftar shahy = Have a good iftar
Mubarak aleik al shahr = May you get the blessings of the month
Kil aam wa inta fee kheir = May each year pass and you be well