You may be familiar with Ramadan’s basic practices, such as abstaining from food, drink and sex during the daylight hours of the holy month, but there are some facts that you may not be aware of…

  1. Ramadan is the second highest spending month of the year in the Middle East: Many Muslims break their fast in restaurants and cafeterias during Ramadan, and enjoy entertainment until the early hours of the morning. Others spend the evenings, after the sunset meal Iftar, wandering around shopping malls (many of which have extended opening hours), socialising and buying gifts. By the end of the month, consumer spending will have dramatically soared to make it the second biggest month after Christmas. Companies such as telecoms providers, consumer goods brands and government agencies consequently spend up to half of their annual advertising budget during Ramadan as people in the region spend more time at home, shopping or calling friends and family.
  2. Ramadan has no associated symbol: Christmas can be symbolised by a Christmas tree or Father Christmas (Santa Claus). While we think of the crescent moon and lanterns when we think of Ramadan, there is no representative symbol. Ramadan is characterised, instead, by exercising the rituals of fasting and dedication to Allah.
  3. Ramadan charity: Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, makes it mandatory for all able Muslims to donate 2.5 per cent of their total annual wealth to the less fortunate. Helping the needy, deprived and poor is one of the most crucial aspects of Ramadan, so many Muslims prefer to practice zakat in this month, thereby also reaping the greatest spiritual reward from their zakat. Muslims mark the end of Ramadan with a three-day celebration, Eid Al Fitr. During these three days, it is mandatory for fasting Muslims to participate in Zakat Al Fitr, which is the practice of donating food or money to the less privileged – those who cannot afford to indulge in the Eid Al Fitr meal.
  4. Ramadan exemptions: While fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, not everyone is required to fast. The sick, the elderly, those who are travelling, pregnant and menstruating women are exempt from fasting. They are, however, required to make up missed fasts at a later date.
  5. Ramadan concessions: Should an individual accidentally vomit whilst fasting, their fast is not broken and they do not have to make up for it after the month of Ramadan. However, if the person deliberately vomits for whatever reason, he or she will have to make up for it, as they have broken the fast. Also, if a person who is fasting forgets themselves and samples the iftar meal while cooking it, that’s also acceptable; as long as it was not done on purpose.