Ramadan in modern times: Does the holy season impact work routines?

For those unfamiliar with the season of Ramadan in Islamic cultures, the prospect of interacting with practicing Muslims during that month can be daunting.

Many know that these Islamic holy days require fasting from dawn to dusk. Others might know that Ramadan is based on the revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, information that can be found on Wikipedia.

Otherwise, Westerners and others unfamiliar with the practical aspects of observant Muslim cultures might have a lot of questions about how things work during Ramadan.

For instance, what about modern communications?

In these days of a globally connected world, where data, messages and even business relationships seem to zoom around the world, it doesn't seem out of the ordinary for someone in a non-Muslim country to be picking up the phone or sending email messages to someone in an Islamic community, but that begs the question of whether the use of smartphones, internet connections and social media changes during Ramadan.

Yasir Mohamed is a graduate of Millersville University in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, working locally in the mental health field. Mohamed has appeared in local news media to answer questions about the Islamic world.
Speaking to the Gulf News Journal on Tuesday, Mohamed said that in general, Ramadan should not intrude on the work schedules of practicing Muslims.

“It's not intended to be a way to take a break from routine.” Mohamed said, noting that Islam doesn't have the equivalent of the Judeo-Christian Sabbath day or day of rest.

With that in mind, Mohamed said, there's no historic principle around Ramadan to prohibit things like talking on a smartphone or sending an email message. The central practices of Ramadan revolve around the fasting and, he said, a spiritual mentality of patience and devotion to the Quran.

However, Mohamed said, some companies in countries that are predominantly Islamic might change work schedules on Ramadan as a matter of concessions to workers. They might, for example, let employees go home early to spend more time with their families. So it might, in theory, be a little harder to reach people on a given day.

Also, Mohamed said, some individuals might limit the use of social media, or take time away from their smartphones or their email inboxes, in order to do things like prayer, meditation or reading the Quran. Again, Mohamed said, that's not because of any strict rule, but something that observant Muslims might choose to do.

And, Mohamed said, Ramadan brings many Muslims together.

“It's not a sectarian thing.” Mohamed said, noting that almost all types of Muslims observe the fast.

Even less observant Muslims, he said, will often observe the fasting during Ramadan, although there are exceptions for those with various physical limitations and groups of people who might need more regular caloric intake, such as pregnant women.

“We believe God is merciful.” Mohamed said, adding that Muslims have to interpret the fast according to their ability to commit to it.

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