For many non-Muslim Dubai residents experiencing the Holy Month for the first time, Ramadan can seem a little intimidating. But, rather than a time of strict laws and punishment, it is in fact a special period of humility and charity, when the city’s population looks out for the needy and each other even more than usual. Here, Moaz Khan from Dubai’s Eton Institute, organiser of its annual free Ramadan Etiquette and Cultural Awareness workshop, answers the questions that you emailed in to us – including even all those slightly embarrassing ones.
What are the guidelines with regards to working out at the gym. Is it okay to drink water? Debbie
A fasting Muslim is not allowed to eat or drink anything between dawn and dusk, regardless of any physical activity they may perform. You can always hit the gym after breaking your fast at Iftar. Any non-Muslims who are not fasting may be allowed to drink or eat as long as they are discreet. It’s a good idea to ask the individual gym managers.
Are there fasting exceptions for pregnant women and children? Smitha
Pregnant women are exempt from fasting if they believe it would be harmful to them or the unborn baby. Nursing mothers are also exempt from fasting. Children are exempt from fasting before the age of puberty, but may fast to practice for when they are older.
What days are national holidays? Kevin
Eid al-Fitr, the festival celebrating the end of Ramadan usually lasts for three days after Ramadan. The public and private sector usually get three days off. The exact dates will be announced after the sighting of the new moon, which marks the end of Ramadan (which is likely to be on August 29).
Can you wear headphones in public and listen to music? Can you dance? Amy
Yes, you can so long as it’s not too loud and doesn’t become an annoyance to others. It is also illegal to dance in public during the month of Ramadan.
What fines do women get for wearing clothing that does not cover shoulders and knees during Ramadan? Fionn
It is important to respect the local culture while in a foreign country. Those flouting the law can be fined up to Dhs2,000 or face jail time as per a recent statement issued by the Dubai Police.
How do fasting people manage without sleeping normally for almost the whole month? Do they get sick? Maria
When fasting, Muslims try not to change their regular routine too much. Fasting people get the rest they need before sunrise and may supplement their sleep with a short nap. As long as your diet is well balanced and nutritious, you will not fall ill. The trick is to plan meals well and make sure you get your daily requirements of vitamins, minerals, and calories. If you happen to fall very ill where you must take medication and food supplements, then yes, you are exempt from fasting. However, you must make up for the days you miss at some point throughout the rest of the year.
How does fasting affect your digestive system? Hannah
Fasting does affect ones digestive system, but in a positive sense. The most scientifically proven advantage of fasting is the feeling of rejuvenation and extended life expectancy. The benefits of fasting must be preceded by a look at the body's progression when deprived of food. Due to the lack of incoming energy, the body must turn to its own resources, a process more commonly known in the celebrity circuits as ‘detoxification’.
How much weight does the average person put on after Ramadan once their metabolism has all but shut down? Ian
It really depends on the diet one chooses to have during Ramadan. Most people plan their diet to include a lot of nutritional value in the form of fresh salads, enough proteins and carbohydrates as well as lots of water and dedicating time to exercise. The intention of observing Ramadan is to learn empathy for the less fortunate and patience – not to spend your nights feasting on rich and fatty foods.
Do people really give 2.5 per cent of their earnings to charity? Nats
Yes, it is compulsory for all Muslims to give a percentage of their annual earnings to charity – this tradition is called Zakat. Ramadan aims to teach us humility and empathy for those less fortunate.
How many prisoners get released from jail every year during Ramadan? Adam
The figure is different each year depending on the severity of cases registered. Last year, about 724 prisoners were pardoned through a decree issued by the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, on the occasion of Ramadan.
Why do people drink Vimto so much during Ramadan? Samar
After not eating or drinking anything all day, your body tends to crave sugary, fruity food and drink – and Vimto is one of those drinks! It has become a sort of traditional drink to have during Ramadan for families, much like having a roast turkey at Christmas.
Do you think it’s really fair that labourers working outside in 40°C heat should have to fast? Or should there be an exemption? Alex
Labourers should probably not work in 40°C weather regardless of whether they are fasting or not. It is their employers’ responsibility to ensure their safety, protect their best interests and make their work as comfortable as possible. It is advisable that the labourers are exempt from working in the heat during peak daylight hours.
People smoke a lot of shisha during Ramadan, but isn’t that a mind-altering substance (and therefore not allowed)? Neil
A fasting Muslim should not eat, drink or smoke from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan. As a result, the dusk to dawn period is a popular time for eating, drinking and unfortunately smoking!
Are all malls operating as usual?
Malls are open during the day and for an extra hour or two at night. Closing times might be as late as midnight or 1am. Again, it changes from one mall to another so it is advisable to check with your favourite mall before planning your trip.
I’ve heard some schools are organising free Arabic Language courses during Ramadan. Is this true? Yuvraj
Yes, Eton Institute offers a free Ramadan Etiquette and Cultural Awareness workshop every year. This year, the workshop will be on Saturday July 30 from 10am-2pm at Dubai Knowledge Village. A free Arabic course will take place during Ramadan too. Join www.facebook.com/etoninstitute for more.
Do you have more unanswered Ramadan questions? Email email@example.com and we’ll endeavour to answer them.