Ramadan, Eid unites Muslims globally
By staff - Fri Aug 17, 4:56 pm
Ramadan is possibly the one time of the year when Muslims all over the world unite. We take a look at how Ramadan is observed around the world.
Asia – Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore & Brunei
Ramadan is a time when strangers, neighbours and colleagues go that extra mile to make life easier for each other. In multicultural Malaysia, the whole country celebrates in symphony. It is not uncommon to have a Malay meal for Suhoor, an Arabic-style snack platter at Iftar, a Chinese dinner and late-night snacks from an Indian stall. How much more international can they get? Communities also bring cultures together at the Hari Raya (Eid) celebrations.
Ramadan guide: A glossary of terms
Similarly diverse cuisine is common during Ramadan in neighbouring countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. In vibrant Asian cities like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, post-Iftar festivities or ‘buka puasa’ (breaking the fast in Malay) are held outdoors or at indoor stalls and food courts.
GCC Arab Nations
In the UAE, many expatriates take advantage of the shorter Ramadan working hours, check out Iftar tents around town to complete the ‘Arabian Nights’ experience, allowing them to integrate more with local and regional Arabs. Late-night mall shopping during Ramadan, which normally lasts until midnight or 1am in GCC countries, is much appreciated for Eid preparations. In the UAE, a special Ramadan night market is also set up where residents can buy items ranging from the traditional to the modern.
Like other expat Muslims around the world, many Muslim Fijians, who make up about 7 per cent of the population, worry about bringing up their children in countries where they do not have family members to make it extra special. But Fijians in Australia, Canada and New Zealand are able to find new traditions to adopt from the sub-continent, Afghanistan and Lebanon. Suhoor for most Muslims is a private family affair where special treats are prepared. In Fiji, children are enticed to wake up with the promise of condensed milk with bread for Suhoor.
Muslim Minority nations – Caribbean, USA, Russia, Spain
In places of Muslim minorities, Iftar is more a community experience than an individual or family one. In Trinidad, for example, one family is nominated for each night of Ramadan to host Iftar either at their home or at the local mosque or community centre.
This provides a time to share information and generally get together socially to strengthen the bond between friends, families and neighbours. Each household makes a different snack for Iftar and sends it around the neighbourhood so there is a variety of food for Iftar in each home.
Iftar Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts
In the USA, Iftar is more about friends and family, but Tarawih prayers bring people from all over the world to meet at mosques where they can all pray together.
In some places in Russia, as in many Arab cities, Iftar is announced with the sound of a cannon to signal to the people that they can eat, although traditionally most people still like to look out the window to see the sun setting and wait for the call for prayer before breaking the fast. Luckily, most countries these days are able to provide an Iftar timing calendar as a guide to when the sunset is expected each day.
In Spain, Ramadan is again a community affair where food is prepared at mosques, which also happens in certain parts of Fiji. People lay out carpets near the mosque and break the fast together with friends, family and neighbours before prayers. As in Asia and many parts of the Arab world, people traditionally have bread and a refreshing soup before they either gather socially in wait for the Tarawih prayers or spend time with family and go back to the mosque for prayers.
Common Ramadan and Iftar traditions all over the world
As Ramadan is a time for giving and generosity, Muslim families all over the world prepare and send charity meals to poor areas, labour camps and old people’s homes. While the mosque is a place people generally send meals to, the poor, the needy and the aged are not forgotten during this time.
Muslims the world over settle down together after a day’s fasting for an evening of prayer, games, and meals as a family or a community unit. This, plus other Ramadan elements like Suhoor, Iftar and congregational Tarawih prayers, are followed by Muslims in most countries around the world, making Ramadan truly universal despite different cultures, traditions and cuisines.