The Holy Month of Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar. Muslims observe it all over the world as a period of fasting (sawm), one of the five pillars of Islam, from sun-up to sundown. It is a period of reflection and worship, as well as a time for families and friends to come together. From dawn, followers abstain from eating, drinking and smoking until sunset, which is known as iftar (“break fast”), when they can break their fast. In Bahrain, non-fasters must also observe these rules while in public.
As Ramadan is called by the moon-sighting committee in Saudi Arabia at the appearance of the new moon, exact dates cannot be given until the night before. This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on Monday June 6 and run until July 7, when three days of Eid al-Fitr, which literally means “the festival of breaking the fast”, will be celebrated. Again, the end of Ramadan will be called by the moon-sighting committee the night before, when the new moon is seen.
Iftar or futoor – In Arabic this means “breakfast”. It is the meal at sunset during Ramadan when Muslims can break their fast.
Suhoor – The pre-dawn meal to see fasters through their day.
Ramadan Kareem – A nice greeting which means “generous Ramadan”. Say it to Muslims during the Holy Month.
Ramadan Mubarak – Another greeting to wish people a happy Ramadan. It basically means “congratulations, it’s Ramadan”.
Sawm – This is the word used for “fasting” and one of the five pillars of Islam.
Ghabga – A Bahraini word meaning “gathering”. You’ll find many “ghabga” events being held throughout the month at hotels and restaurants. This means plenty of food, traditional entertainment and games.
Zakat – Another one of the five pillars of Islam is zakat or alms-giving. It requires adult Muslims to pay 2.5 percent of their wealth to the poor and needy.
While this “tax” can be paid at any time during the year, zakat is more prominent during Ramadan.
Salah – Prayer; another of the five pillars of Islam. Five prayer times are observed throughout the days: the first at dawn, then at noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and night.
Eid al-Fitr – This annual, three-day celebration marks the end of the Holy Month and the start of “Shawwal” (the tenth month in the Islamic calendar) with prayers, festivities, lots and lots of food, gifts for kids and family gatherings. It means “the festival of breaking the fast”.
Know how to behave with respect around fasters during Ramadan.
Don’t… eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public during daylight hours. This includes on the street, in your car, at the office (check your own office rules), in the stairway and any other public spots. Breaking this rule is legally punishable.
Don’t… play loud music, dance or sing in public. There will be no live music gigs in Bahrain – only background music is allowed – as Ramadan is a contemplative time.
Don’t… blaspheme, curse or swear in public. It’s never a good thing to do in a civilised society, but during the Holy Month it’s particularly insulting.
Don’t… wear revealing or tight clothing in public at any time of day or night. Both men and women should make sure their shoulders, mid-riffs and knees are covered.
Do… make the most of the festive atmosphere and community spirit during this special time of the year. Enjoy sumptuous buffet spreads, play games and experience authentic Arabian hospitality with friends and family.
Do… respect your neighbour. If you’re not fasting then be considerate of those that are, in many ways, such as refraining from cooking a pungent lunch in the shared office microwave.
Do… drive even more carefully than usual as many people hurry home for iftar, or drive while tired and hungry during the day.
Do… enjoy traditional tunes and performances at the many iftar or ghabga events going on around the island. Many venues will have Arabic oud players or tanoura dancers to entertain crowds during the evenings.