Thursday June 18th, 2015 marks the start of the month of Ramadan, celebrated by 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. You likely have clients, business partners or colleagues who are celebrating and so you may have some questions about what it’s all about. If you would like some basic background about the month, were wondering why Ramadan always falls on a different date each year, or would like to know what all of this might mean for your business dealings, keep reading!
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, a calendar which is based on cycles of the moon. Because it is based on the lunar calendar—which is shorter than the Gregorian calendar by an average of 11 days per year–Ramadan always falls on different dates each year. This explains why no one can ever pinpoint the exact start date of Ramadan. For example, in 2015, it was estimated that Ramadan would either start on June 17th, or on June 18th (since the new lunar month starts every 29 or 30 days). What determines whether the lunar month will either be 29 or 30 days is not scientifically calculated, rather, it is based on the actual sighting of the moon! Whenever the new moon of is sighted (signifying the start of the new lunar month), the start of Ramadan is announced. Due to this, the exact start date of Ramadan is usually not known until the night before it begins.
Likewise, the same concept applies when determining when the end of Ramadan will be celebrated. Interestingly enough, this results in a rotating holiday which falls in the summer some years, and in the winter some years later!
Ramadan is such an important part of Islam, that fasting during the month is known as one of the five “pillars” of the faith. During Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink anything from dawn to dusk. A pre-dawn meal is eaten during the early hours of the morning, followed by a day of fasting. The fast is then “broken” at sunset, usually with some dried dates, followed by a meal. As with any religious obligation, this is only intended for those who are healthy and able to handle it. Those who are elderly, ill or pregnant are advised not to fast.
According to Islamic beliefs, Ramadan is the month where the Qur’an (the holy book of Islam) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Therefore Muslims spend the month focusing on reading and studying the Qur’an. Additionally, special congregational night prayers are held every night in Ramadan, with extra prayers and focus added during the last ten nights of the month. During Ramadan, Muslims are highly encouraged to give extra charity, do additional acts of kindness, and increase in their overall spirituality and personal-development during the month.
Ramadan this year means a fast of 15-17 hours (or longer) in many countries around the world. If you deal with companies or clients based out of Muslim countries, it is important to note that the work-day (and school-day) are often cut short both in the public and private sectors. This might mean a later start to the work-day, an early end to the work-day, or more likely a combination of both. If you are dealing with companies based in Muslim countries, make sure you keep an eye out for adjusted work hours during the month, or make sure to inquire about any adjustments.
Additionally, the end of Ramadan is celebrated with a major holiday known as Eid (or Eid-ul-Fitr). It will be celebrated on July or 17th or 18th (again, dependent upon the moon sighting). Most Muslim-majority countries will close all official business for a few days around the holiday, so make sure you keep an eye out and make proper arrangements accordingly.
Another important consideration if you have Muslim clients, colleagues, or employees, is to make sure to keep the fact that they will likely be fasting in mind when setting lunch-meetings, or asking to meet over coffee. A minor adjustment for you may mean a lot to a colleague/client who is fasting and would prefer not to meet at a restaurant with a table of delicious smelling food in front of them!
Last but not least, if you would like to wish a Happy Ramadan to your Muslim colleagues, clients, or business partners, you can say “Ramadan Mubarak” (meaning “Ramadan Blessings to you”) or simply say “Happy Ramadan!”