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The observance of Ramadan began this past week in the Islamic world. Many of our teachers who will be moving overseas next year have been asking about Ramadan facts:

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this Holy Month, Muslims focus on prayer, fasting, and charity. The act of fasting during Ramadan is one of the five central pillars of Islam.

Muslims fast – refraining from even drinking water – from sunrise until sunset. At night, the fast is broken with a meal called iftar. Ramadan is also a time for charity: communities work together to donate food, clothing, and money to the poor.

Eid al-Fitr is the festival marking the end of Ramadan, which brings cities together in celebration.

Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?

As with any religious observance, the reasons for fasting during Ramadan are multi-faceted. Fasting is a form of self-sacrifice that is intended to increase empathy for the less fortunate. Practicing discipline and self-control demonstrates worship and obedience to Allah.

When is Ramadan?

Because Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, the exact dates shift forward each year by about 11 days. Dates may even vary slightly by country. In 2013, Ramadan began at sunset on July 8, and will last until August 7 (July 9 – August 8 in many places).

How does Ramadan affect schedules?

Foreigners may want to note that offices both in the public and private sector will likely observe shorter work days during Ramadan.

How can visitors be respectful during Ramadan?

Expectations of non-Muslims can vary depending on the country. In some countries, all restaurants are shut down during the day, while in others, hotel restaurants and other places catering to foreign visitors will remain open. In theses cases, however, diners will usually be served indoors, in places where they will not be seen.

Exercising sensitivity and common sense, and err on the side of caution until you have a good idea of what is acceptable. Do not eat or drink in public, and show respect towards those who are fasting.

How do I wish someone a happy Ramadan?

In English, it’s fine to say “Happy Ramadan.” However, you can wish people, “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak.” (Kareem means “generous,” while Mubarak is a term meaning happy greetings or wishes.)

To celebrate the end of Ramadan, or Eid al-Fitr, the greeting is “Eid Mubarak!”

To all of our teachers observing Ramadan, we wish you a safe and happy month. Ramadan Mubarak!

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