The UAE is home to a majority of non-Muslim expats, so how can you avoid offending people who are fasting? We’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts during the holy month.
Fasting for an entire month is both refreshing and challenging for Muslims. Some days, they might not be able to do their best, other days they might be sleep deprived.
As their friend, colleague or just a considerate individual, there are certain things you can do or avoid so you stay sensitive to them during Ramadan.
Give warm greetings. Just like Muslims greet you on Christmas and celebrate Thanksgiving with you in the UAE, you should wish them a blessed and healthy Ramadan. You can say “Ramadan Kareem” or just “Ramadan Mubarak” (Happy Ramadan).
Be patient. Going about the day without that morning cup of coffee, tea and water can be exhausting, and some of your colleagues may be grumpy or tired at work during the month of fasting. Give your Muslim colleagues the benefit of the doubt and remain patient as they may not be able to work at their normal pace.
Be courteous. Ramadan is all about self-restraint so, while most Muslims won’t be offended if you eat or drink around them, it is out of goodwill that you should try not to and refrain from offering them snacks if you know they’re fasting.
Adjust your routine. If going for lunch or coffee meetings is a norm at your workplace, maybe re-think that choice during Ramadan if you have Muslim colleagues. Although your employees won’t demand it, it is always a good idea to show compassion.
Show an interest. As a non-Muslim, you might have a lot of questions about Ramadan, and Islam in general. While being inquisitive is encouraged, it is best not to ask a person who has a dry mouth why he must fast for a month and if it poses any health hazards. You can, however, ask such questions politely after their evening meal and engage in a fruitful conversation. However, avoid asking condescending questions that might offend Muslims such as “Is fasting a good way to lose weight?”, “Don’t you feel hungry?” and “Can you eat while nobody is looking?” This is not what Ramadan is about.
Be aware of others. Muslims abstain from watching movies or listening to music during Ramadan. So, if you’re around Muslims or in a public place is it best to use your earphones.
Soak up the spirit of the season. Last, but certainly not least, if you are invited to an iftar, don’t turn down the invitation unless you really cannot make it. Take a small box of dates with you as a goodwill gesture because dates are often used to break the fast, and make the most of the unique experience.