KUWAIT: Most Muslims living and working overseas practice cultural and religious traditions during the holy month of Ramadan even more devoutly than they did in their home countries, a newly released Western Union-sponsored study has found. The study entitled ‘Traditions of Ramadan by global citizens of Muslim faith,’ was conducted in July by The Nielsen Company and covered Muslims of 11 nationalities living in 12 countries in the GCC, Asia Pacific, the United States and Western Europe.
According to the survey findings, 65 percent of the respondents in the GCC stated that their behavior and religious practices during the holy month of Ramadan have changed, predominantly for the better, as compared to their practices back home prior to migrating. The practice of ‘fasting’ has been impacted the most according to 84 percent of respondents followed by ‘praying’ (77 percent) and ‘charitable giving’ (75 percent). Furthermore, ‘Access to religious facilities,’ ‘Influence of loved ones’ and ‘Work commitments’ were cited as the three main drivers for these changes, according to 60 percent, 49 percent and 43 percent of the respondents respectively.
“Living in another country often brings different cultural influences along with new work and personal pressures. Global citizens of Muslim faith are upholding Islamic traditions and are even more devout during the Holy Month of Ramadan,” Sobia Rahman, Western Union’s Regional Vice President for Gulf, Pakistan and Afghanistan said.
“Western Union has been moving money for better, for more than 135 years. We know people move away from their home countries for many reasons, but a common factor is creating a better life for their families and loved ones through work opportunities,” Rahman added. “It is difficult for people of any faith or nationality to be away from home during traditional cultural and religious events and holidays. Ramadan working hours in the GCC are shorter which gives people more time to reflect and spend time with their families and loved ones. It is not surprising to see that family, loved ones and friends, along with commitment to work, are even more influential when people live overseas.”
In the GCC, Muslims from other countries were found to be more devoted to upholding a variety of traditions than migrants living in other regions, with one in two surveyed (54 percent) saying they fasted more and engaged in more sharing and giving (44 percent), compared with when they were in their home countries. Globally, Arab Muslims, regardless of where they had emigrated to, also tended to engage in more Ramadan activities other than fasting and praying – such as reading the Quran, socializing with family and friends and the ritual of Umrah – compared with Non-Arab Muslims.
Rahman added, “Another key insight from the study was that nearly three out of four respondents (74 percent) in the GCC said that they paid zakat during Ramadan. Despite fulfilling their duty of zakat during Ramadan, a vast majority of the respondents continue sharing and giving to the less fortunate and those in need, which is an important aspect of Ramadan for every Muslim. 53 percent of the respondents said that they preferred to ‘donate to charity’ whether locally, back home or overseas, with a majority of them (94 percent) preferring to give ‘cash’ donations.”
Key highlights of the study:
- Different traditions are observed during the holy month of Ramadan. Despite being away from family and loved ones, 96 percent practiced fasting, 89 percent prayed, 78 percent engaged in Iftar, or evening meals to break the day’s fast, and 75 percent read the Quran.
- International citizens of Muslim faith residing in the GCC uphold a greater variety of traditions than their counterparts in Asia, Western Europe and the United States.
- Breaking fast is popular with other people instead of alone, with family (75 percent) being the most favored companions, closely followed by friends (65 percent).
- Accessibility to facilities for religious purposes (62 percent) and the influence of family, loved ones and friends (52 percent) are the most important influencers in fasting more during Ramadan.
- Zakat, or the act of giving to others in need, is practiced more during Ramadan, with nearly nine in 10 Muslims abroad (89 percent) saying they fulfilled zakat.
- Nearly three out of four (74 percent) respondents in the GCC said they did so only during the holy month. That compares with less than half of Muslims surveyed in Asia (44 percent) and Western Europe and (42 percent) the United States (44 percent), who tended to spread zakat to other times during the year.
- A vast majority (94 percent) uphold sharing and giving traditions during Ramadan.
- The zakat obligation is most commonly fulfilled through sharing with people who are known to the giver locally or overseas (65 percent). Arab Muslims are more likely to share with people they know locally (42 percent) than overseas (29 percent) while the reverse is true for non-Arab Muslims (49 percent local; 56 percent overseas).
- Muslims from the Middle East and the United States are more likely to fulfill zakat through donations to charity (53 percent and 54 percent respectively).
- Overall, the most common gift during Ramadan was cash (92 percent), followed by clothes (40 percent), food (36 percent) and other products (21 percent). Outside the Middle East, clothing was more popular (53 percent).
“Cash is very versatile and convenient to give, either locally or when helping people abroad, which explains its popularity,” Rahman said. “However, the important finding is that the vast majority of Muslims continue to help meet real needs, both in their home and adoptive communities, by fulfilling their duty of zakat.”
The findings of the study were based on a survey of nearly to 550 Muslims emigrants originally from the Middle Eastern and North African countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia and the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They resided in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia in the GCC; Malaysia and Singapore in Asia; the United Kingdom, Germany and France in Europe; and the United States.
This study was conducted in conjunction with Western Union’s mega regional consumer promotion in Kuwait, UAE and Qatar to reward customers for sending money through Western Union. One lucky customer in Kuwait will win KD 7,500 while another two customers will have a chance at winning KD 3,750 and KD 2,000 respectively. An additional 49 customers will have their transaction amount (up to $2,000) doubled. The promotion commenced on July 1st and will run through to Aug 18 and customers only need to transact during this period to automatically enter the raffle draw.