For those of you who are non-Muslims or are from a country practicing a different religion, it’s important to have some general working knowledge as to how major celebrations like Ramadan are being observed in Muslim countries, especially when you’re based here in Kuwait.
Ramadan represents the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is significant because it honours the time when Allah revealed the Qur’an to the prophet Muhammad. Therefore, this time has been considered sacred or holy and is observed through fasting, praying, and giving.
Do’s and Don’ts During Ramadan for Non-Muslims in Kuwait
As an expat living in Kuwait, part of assimilating into its culture is knowing and abiding by the people’s customs and traditions as an outward expression of respect and goodwill. Here are some of the things that you need to consider doing (or not) during Ramadan:
Things to Do:
- Present yourself accordingly by dressing up properly, especially when you’re going out on the streets.
- Exchange Ramadan greetings and well-wishes like “Ramadan Kareem” when you meet with Muslims, and “Ramadan Mubarak” during the three-day Eid festivities (Eid Mubarak) signalling the end of Ramadan.
- Be considerate with the people around you. Fasting may take a toll on a person’s eating and sleeping habits, as well as his/her overall functioning so be a little more considerate with the people you deal with on a daily basis, especially since the activities will last for almost a month.
- Do small random acts of kindness by sharing food, clothing or money that you have in excess or by supporting charity events. An important element during Ramadan is the spirit of generosity. Helping those in greater need no matter which form it takes is something that aligns with the spirit of the Holy Month.
- Accept invitations from your friends or colleagues as a sign of goodwill and respect. When your Muslim friends offer you an evening meal (iftar) during Ramadan, do accommodate them and bring a small gift for your host. If you’re worried about what to bring, you can always bring some nice Arabic sweets or desserts. Even a simple pack of dates will be warmly accepted by your host because after all, the holidays are a special time to get together and bond with friends and loved ones.
Things Not to Do:
- Smoking. This is just one of the few things prohibited during the Holy month of Ramadan. So in observance of the occasion, it’s also probably a good start to quit the habit (starting this month). You well know it’s bad for you, and by paying your respect to Muslims during this month, you are also doing yourself a very big favour in the long run.
- Driving at Sundown. Remember that many people will be out in the streets by this time in preparation for the breaking of the fast and will be attending Iftar celebrations. When possible, avoid being out on the road in your car so as not to hassle the people going about their celebrations, even if only for about an hour and a half after sundown.
- Eating in Public. As a sign of respect and consideration to fasting Muslims, try to avoid eating, drinking and even chewing gum in public. This also includes inside your car, where it is still considered public space.
- Playing Loud Music. Even if inside your car or in the privacy of your home, avoid playing loud music or creating noise that could potentially distract other people who are in a state of meditation, reflection, or fasting.
- Showing Affection (i.e. kissing, hugging) to your partner of the opposite sex in public. This rule generally applies all year round. But all the more so important during the Holy month of Ramadan.
Even if we are non-Muslims, it’s important to show our respect and understanding of their values and unique culture. And by doing these small acts of respect and goodwill, we are showing Muslims that we accept their beliefs just as they have welcomed us into living here in Kuwait.