happenings this month Understanding Ramadan
Understanding Ramadan
Updated on 31 May 2016

The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root 'ramida' meaning dryness or scorching heat, and is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar uses the phases of the moon to mark its days, usually 344 or 345 days per year, and the sighting of the new moon marks the start and end of Ramadan. In the 365 day Gregorian calendar, Ramadan falls approximately 11 days earlier each year.

Muslims believe that during Ramadan Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed – Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH), and honour the holy month with prayer, fasting and charity.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam (basic acts), and is obligatory for all Muslims who have come of age. Those who are ill, travelling, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or menstruating are excused, but must make up the days later on.

To fast means not to eat or drink (including water) during daylight hours. Muslims are also expected to abstain from smoking, sexual relations and speaking sinfully. While non-Muslims are not required to fast, they are legally obliged not to eat, drink or smoke in public places. If you break the rules, you will probably receive a verbal warning, but be careful, short jail sentences have been handed out in the past. Generally speaking, the police are lenient, but your understanding and cooperation are expected and very much appreciated by the authorities. Of course you may eat, drink and smoke behind closed doors and many restaurants and hotels continue to serve food behind screened-off areas.

Other things to be aware of include: no music in public during the day as Muslims listen to Quran recitations; the dress code is intensified, so dress modestly by covering your shoulders and knees, and there is a change in traffic as working hours are cut to 6 hours a day, allowing those fasting to leave the office early and rest before Iftar.

'Iftar' is the breaking of the fast at sunset and is a social gathering serving traditional meals. Muslims are urged to invite others to break the fast with them and it is said that the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) used to break his fast with dates, a tradition that Muslims still follow today. In some places in Dubai, the firing of a traditional cannon is still used to announce Iftar and two shots are fired on the first day of Eid Al Fitr to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Throughout the month you will hear the words "Ramadan Mubarak" and "Ramadan Kareem" used as greetings (Kareem means generous, Mubarak means blessings), and "Suhoor" which is the meal in the morning just before sunrise.

Please show consideration during this special month, but most of all, you are encouraged to experience the spirit of Ramadan by taking part in the many social activities on offer, especially Iftar.


• smoke, drink or eat in public during the hours of sunrise to sunset. This includes while you are driving as well as in public places, such as shopping malls.
• sing and dance in public.
• be overly rowdy. Keep stereos on a low volume while driving, on the beach or in your house, so as not to disturb your Muslim neighbours.
• wear clothes that are considered revealing in public places, i.e. supermarkets and shopping malls.

• smoke, drink and eat in the privacy of your home or hotel room.
• get sociable in the evenings for Iftar.
• be charitable.
• wish your neighbours "Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak".

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