The holy month of Ramadan begins for Muslims around the world on May 6th.  There are a few things that non-Muslim expats in our destinations of Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia should know.

What is Ramadan?

This is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar.  Muslims believe that this was the month Allah (God) revealed the Quran, the central religious text to the Prophet Mohammed.

How is it Observed?

Starting on the sixth and continuing for 30 days, Muslims seek closeness with God.  Focus turns away from material things and towards charity, patience and gratitude.  Part of this practice includes daily fasting.  For adults, no food or drink will be consumed, including water.  Children are not required to participate in fasting.

After maghrib prayers which take place at sun down, the fast is broken with Iftar, the evening meal.

What Can Expats Expect?

Non-Muslim expats will see some changes to the availability of services.  Government office may have shortened hours or be closed as can some schools and shops.  Restaurants may be closed during the day, but some may have a discreet room where food will be served.  Locations that serve alcohol may do so only during reduced time frames.  In the evening, after maghrib restaurants can be very busy so it is best to plan ahead.

For those still in the planning process, understand that visa processing will be delayed and most everything else will take some extra time to execute.

How Can Non-Muslim Expats Be Good Neighbors?

Only Muslims are expected to participate in the daily fast, but there are some actions that those who don’t participate can take in order to be respectful.

  • Avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public.
    • Use available private spaces in restaurants and offices and order take-away if possible.
  • Be patient with those who may be tired and cranky from lack of sleep and food.
  • If invited to Iftar, go and enjoy if you can.
  • Be aware that each location and each person may practice religion differently.  There is no single set of tips that apply equally or correctly to every Muslim everywhere.  It is ok to ask your friend, colleague or community what you can do to be supportive.

Ramadan Mubarak!

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