Ramadan is without a doubt one of most important Muslim celebrations. One of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which is calculated according to the moon. This is why this 30 days long celebration takes place at a different time each year.
Ramadan is mainly a time of worship and closeness with God. Most people associate Ramadan with a time when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Muslims believe this fasting helps them to clean their soul and allows them to practise self control, sacrifice and empathy.
Ramadan is also a time for prayer. Each night 1/30 of the Qur’an is read so that the whole holy book is completed by the end of the month. Generosity is emphasised as well and Muslims are strongly encouraged to act like the prophet Muhammad who, according to the Qur’an, was “as generous as the blowing breeze”.
While some adjustments are made for young children, pregnant women or elderly people, all Muslims are expected to respect the fast and other aspects of the celebrations. Severe punishments can be imposed against people who eat, drink or behave improperly during this period in some strict Muslim countries.
Ramadan is not merely a religious celebration, rather it impacts all aspects of a Muslim’s life for 30 days. In most Islamic countries or nations counting a large Muslim population, the whole social and economic life is affected during Ramadan. Shops have different opening hours and will usually close during the afternoon and reopen during the evening. The same goes for many companies who tend to change their working hours and avoid scheduling important meetings during this period of the year.
Night life activity also increases during the month of Ramadan which often results in a lower performance rate during the day. In fact, the Arab World Institute based in Cairo published a survey showing that employee productivity decreases by 73.3% during the month of Ramadan. Absenteeism also rises as fasting and eating large portions of food once per day can create illness or digestive disorders.
Investors doing business in countries that observe Ramadan need to be aware of these elements when doing business with Muslim counterparts and avoid scheduling meetings during inappropriate hours of the day. International assignees living in Arabic countries must also adapt. Even if they are not obliged to fast, they should eat behind closed doors and avoid any disrespectful behaviour that might offend Muslims.
It is not only in Arab countries where you need to acknowledge the impact of Ramadan on professional and personal spheres. Muslim employees working in western countries also fast and celebrate the Ramadan traditions. Managers should be aware of this fact to avoid critical incidents or cultural insensitivity. Organising important business lunches or company events with food and drinks in the middle of the day during Ramadan for instance can put Muslims in uneasy or frustrating situations that can damage your business relationship with them.
Cross cultural awareness training programmes such as Living and Working in Saudi Arabia or Doing Business in the Middle East can help managers, international assignees and employees to have a better understanding of their Muslim counterparts. Training is tailored to provide the cross cultural tools and strategies required to deal with and fully understand Ramadan and its impact on business.
If you want to impress your Muslim counterparts by acknowledging this important time of the year, you can now purchase cards (even e-cards for the tech savvy) with Ramadan greetings. Showing your interest in this holiday is a great way to build relationships with Muslim counterparts and colleagues.
Ramadan Mubarak (a blessed Ramadan) to you all!
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2010