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A guide to the holy month of Ramadan

01 May 2019
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which fasting is observed by Muslims from sunrise until sunset. 

Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The first day of Ramadan is traditionally marked by the sighting of the crescent moon with the naked eye, and is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Ramadan lasts for one complete moon cycle, which is typically 29 or 30 days.

Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, sinful speech and inappropriate behaviour while they are observing the fast. Muslims are able to 'break' their fast after sunset.


Know your rights:

All public and private sector workers, regardless of their religion, work reduced hours (2 hours less) according to the UAE Labour Law. The DIFC is the only exception whereby the law specifically refers to fasting Muslims who are entitled to the shorter working hours (subject to change when the new DIFC employment law is released).

Although it is against the laws to drink or eat in the workplace, arrangements are made for non-fasting employees to eat and drink in secluded areas (normally behind curtains or in separate dining rooms) away from fasting colleagues.

The employer is not entitled to reduce the employee’s pay for the shortened hours. The employer must pay the employee their normal pay, irrespective of the reduced hours. This applies to both onshore and freezones.


Key terms

  • Suhoor: an Islamic term referring to the meal consumed before sunrise by Muslims.
  • Iftar: the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. Muslims break their fast at the time of the call to prayer.
  • Ramadan Kareem and Ramadan Mubarak: a greeting offered to others at the commencement of the month of Ramadan.
  • Sawm: translates to fasting from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan in Arabic.
  • Zakat: a form of obligatory charity that amounts to 2.5% of wealth that has been in one's possession for a lunar year.
  • Salah: also called salat and namaz, is one of the Five Pillars in the faith of Islam and an obligatory religious duty for every Muslim to be conducted five times during the course of a day.
  • Tarawih: are extra prayers which Muslims read at the last third of the night in the month of Ramadan.
  • Eid al Fitr: an important religious holiday/festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, whereby family gatherings and exchanging gifts is commonplace.


Key considerations:

  • Do not eat (including chewing gum), drink, or smoke in public during the prescribed fasting hours. All the aforementioned practices are prohibited and can be punishable of up to a month in jail or a fine of up to AED 2,000 (USD$545). In addition takeaway and deliveries of food and beverages must be made in concealed and odourless packaging.
  • For outlets that serve shisha or alcoholic beverages, they must only be served after sunset.
  • Do not engage in any aggressive behaviour or curse loudly during the holy month.
  • Playing music and live entertainment is strictly prohibited
  • Dress respectfully in the workplace. It is deemed polite to take into consideration your fasting colleagues by making an effort to cover adequately during this time.
  • Greet ‘Ramadan Kareem/Mubarak‘ to those of your colleagues who are observing Ramadan this month.
  • Children, pregnant women, the sick and the elderly are not required to fast.
  • It is advisable to remove water, tea and coffee, biscuits, lunch etc. from meeting rooms.
  • Prayer and worship are an important part of the holy month and it would be polite to be aware of a Muslim's prayer times as well as being respectful of where they pray.

Further Reading