This year, June marks the return of the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan, the 9th month in the Islamic calendar, is regarded as one of the 5 pillars of Islam so as you can imagine, is a huge part of people’s lives each year. Ramadan lasts for 29-30 days, based on the appearance of the crescent moon. Those that practice must fast (compulsory for adult Muslims that don’t suffer from certain medical conditions) from sunrise to sunset each day, refraining from eating, drinking, smoking, cursing and intimate acts. Additionally, there is extra emphasis on prayer importance during this month.
Rather unfortunately, for those that celebrate Ramadan and fast, this year it falls in June which as you are already experiencing, is extremely hot and perhaps not the best time to be deprived of water. Every year it goes back by 2 weeks, so eventually it will land again during winter months. But for the next few years, it’s destined to be a hot one.
Having spent the last six years in Islamic countries, I have learned a lot with regard to the importance of Ramadan, what it means, and as an expat, how to do my bit in not making fasting friends and coworkers endure more than they already are. Below are some pointers to help you out during the holy month, whether you are a by stander or perhaps thinking of joining in and attempting to observe Ramadan yourself.
Whatever you do, don’t consume food or drink in public places during fasting hours. Same goes for smoking! Here in Kuwait, it can actually result in a fine or jail time. Aside from that, it doesn’t hurt to be considerate to the majorities that are fasting, and there should be no reason to really eat or drink in public, except for the case of an emergency of course. Enjoy your food and drink in the comfort of your own home, or a dedicated space at work. In the same vein, dress appropriately! If out in public, it is considered respectful to wear tops that cover the shoulder and neckline, and bottoms that come below the knees. Yes, this can be problematic for us expats during the hotter months but c’mon, it’s only for a few weeks and it’s the least we can do for our gracious hosts right!? Plus, as an added bonus, it’s a GREAT time to cut down on coffee, junk food and cigarettes…embrace it!
If you have neighbors that celebrate Ramadan, take this month as your chance to get to know them better and drop off a gift. A gift basket of any size, a fanous (lantern), or even something homemade (gift or food that they can enjoy when breaking their fast). Combine that with a Ramadan Kareem (happy Ramadan!) when delivering, and you will be sure to make a friend for life! Chances are you will be invited to join them for Iftar (the first meal when breaking fast), so accept and enjoy the delicious food and festive atmosphere!
Similar to last month’s advice with street workers and housekeepers, many of them observe Ramadan and charity is a big part of the celebrations, so don’t hesitate to donate a little money or food for them to break their fast. If you have any unwanted items, especially clothes, this is a great month to arrange them and deliver them to those less fortunate. If you are unsure or don’t know anyone that needs them, you can locate multiple companies here in Kuwait that can distribute such items to those in need.
Around the time that fasting is due to break, avoid the roads/public areas. They will be packed with people waiting to eat, so this tip isn’t so much to let them eat first (although of course it applies!) but more for you to not get caught in busy areas. You’re welcome! In contrast, during Ramadan the regular working hours are 9:00am-3:00pm, and the streets are generally much quieter during fasting hours. Seize this opportunity to go shopping/wash the car/drive with much less stress than a usual day.
In my experience, all of the above tips are relatively small, easy to follow, and go a long way in helping to make a difficult month just a little easier for others that we share a country with. A big part of Ramadan is to deprive oneself of things that the less fortunate do without every day, in order to appreciate these things that we take for granted, so by following the above you are also doing that in your own way. And in the true spirit of Ramadan and kindness, your good deeds and wishes will come back to bless you one day. So enjoy the holy month, get involved and try the amazing events and food on offer (after sunset, of course), and have a truly blessed month.