August 01, 2011

Guide to Ramadhan Observance in the Arabian Peninsula:

(Warning: Last pre-Ramadhan indulgence in biting satire ahead...)

As we embark on our blessed and holy month of Ramadhan, I thought I'd share these top tips for observing the fast in the most khaleeji way possible, and really entering into the spirit of things.  Here we go then, the TLS "magnificent seven" top tips for observing Ramadhan like a real GCC-dweller:

1. You will need a large bank loan, preferably one you can't afford to pay back - don't worry, you can go to court as often as you like but nothing bad will happen (N.B. might need to be more careful if you're foreign).  The important thing is to maximise the showing off, and at the same time sign up to a whopping great haram interest-bearing loan, just to show that Ramadhan really is becoming the "Muslim Christmas".  Don't let those westerners think they have a monopoly on capitalist lust dressed as religion now!  It's your duty to out-consume the heathen!

2. Don't tell your business partners, customers or coleagues to expect any change in your working hours or performance: Imagine their delight as they try repeatedly to contact you while you attend your office for only two hours in the evening to play 'minesweeper'. Don't spoil the surprise either by telling them that as well as doing nothing for the whole month, you will reward yourself with a ten day holiday for the three day Eid at the end of it.  Inconsiderate?  Ha!  If they're expecting you to work they're probably just infidels anyway...

3. Remember - fasting is for the poor! Anyone who's anyone simply sleeps in the day and stays up all night (a good way to avoid some of that tedious praying too). And it's essential to eat twice as much as you normally would - and don't forget the extra fat and lots of sugar (especially given your sedentary lifestyle, obesity and genetic predisposition to diabetes).  Ramadhan is the month of multiple desserts.  Don't be shy now, get that crash weight-gain program started.  Month of fasting? would you manage your prodigious eating feats during Eid if you didn't have a month of intensive glutton-training first?!

4. Forget everything you ever learned about safe motoring - yes, even those of you who had to learn to drive properly when taking 15 years to do a 3 year undergrduate degree in the US! Not only does God love you more in Ramadhan, so do the ROP. Normal rules do not apply, traffic lights are red merely to warn others that you are about to drive through them. And don't forget to be inconsiderate to your fellow motorist, and drive especially dangerously within one hour of Iftar: Yes, you really are suddenly more important than everyone else on the road, especially if you used your new bank loan (see above) to buy a Lexus (or Hilux if your beard is over 6 inches long). Don't worry about the others you cut up and run off the road - they must be kuffar, or they'd be driving like you.  

5. Spoil your children. Extra lessons in being rude and disrespectful to adults will be required. They may wish to practice their skateboarding in the supermarkets, and calling the housemaid a b*tch. Older children will also beat the housemaid. This is more fun if done in public to increase the humiliation. Now buy the kids everything they want with money you haven't got, and let them eat sweets until they vomit. They will break their new toys within a week, so best give them some cash too, and encourage them to beg at all the neighbours' houses.  But most of all, teach them that greed is good, and to thank God they're not Indonesian and cleaning your bathroom.

6. Charity begins at home! So Ramadhan is an excellent excuse for delaying your employees' pay by at least a month. Blame the bank - the employees won't believe you, but they won't argue if they want to be paid! Oh no!  Demonstrate to the infidel the true generosity of the Creator by giving yourself only an hour in the office per day, while asking him to work extra hours and cover for your lazy butt.  And if you don't have the cash to pay, hey, faith comes first right?  And what kind of Believer would you be if you paid people what you owed them instead of booking the Eid holiday in Thailand as a dedication to the Almighty?  Allahu Akram!

7. Students: Forget studying - even if your tutors show up, they will remember to mark you extra leniently as they understand the important religious devotion you have been giving by watching soap operas on LBC until 5am. If you are studying abroad, don't forget to play your "Muslim sensitivites" card. No-one will dare tell you that you're a lazy waste of oxygen when you sleep all day, they wouldn't want to be labelled as "enemies of Islam" now would they?! When asked why you are late/asleep/talking to Fatima on your cellphone in class, simply sigh and reply "you don't understand my religion/culture/who my father is".  This also works perfectly well in Oman as long as your tutor is Indian.

WARNING:   There are some of your fellow Muslims who might think differently to you and really try to spoil your Christmas Ramadhan completely.  Some of them will even suggest that if you're asleep all day you're not fasting, and that Ramadhan is a month of religious reflection and self-restraint leading to spiritual and physical purification. They will only bore you by going to bed early, praying, getting up for work in the morning, and declining the fifteenth portion of Basboosa. If you do accidentally bump into one, just laugh and say "ma3lesh".... and remember, you drive a Lexus because God made you special.....

Ramadhan Kareem!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Soapbox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clashing in the Gulf said...

Wonderful post! I am a non-Muslim western woman married to a Gulf Arab and I remember my first few Ramadans in the Gulf. I was scared to death! I was absolutely shocked to learn that it was actually against the law to eat, drink, or smoke in public. Even now, many years later, making someone else’s “religious” beliefs and customs a law that basically forces everyone to follow, is a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. I was scared to death that I would be thrown in jail because maybe I accidently took a drink of water or absent mindedly put a piece of gum in my mouth. Yes, I know, a person can go to a private/secluded place and “indulge”, but unfortunately that idea just added to my fear—to have to think about when you needed a drink of water and go sneak to get it. So, from the beginning, I basically was “forced” to fast along with my fellow Muslim co-workers. Back then, many years ago, non-Muslims worked normal work hours with just Muslims getting shorter hours. In my line of work, there is a high percentage of Westerners, so there we would sit—a bunch of non-Muslims—at 7:30 in the morning (our normal work time)—with no Muslims around (they didn’t come in until about 11 or so—if at all) but scared to death to even get a drink of water in the fear that a Muslim may accidently walk in and report us to the police. Additionally, I was quite perplexed when most of my husband’s friends and family would congratulate him on the fact that I was fasting. Didn’t they know that it was against the law not to? Didn’t they read in the daily in the newspaper about the latest poor non-faster (usually an Indian or Bangladeshi) who was thrown in jail for smoking a cigarette or taking a drink of water? Didn’t they realize that I didn’t want to go to jail? Well, now years later, I still chuckle as the world gets flipped upside down here in the Gulf. Day is night and night is day. I know that absolutely no work will be done. I know it’s not how Ramadan fasting is supposed to be like, but it seems that most Gulf Arabs don’t realize that. “Don’t you know that I am fasting?” will be the excuse to, as you pointed out, not work, not study, not be polite, etc… But don’t forget, most non-Muslims are fasting, too! It’s the law!

(What if Christian majority western countries made it illegal to not celebrate Christmas or Easter? Quite a scandal…just a thought!)

Modh Baluchi said...

ur absolutely right CITG..

n TLS this is an amazing post, u got it all right but in a funny and an interesting way...!!
wut i really like bout Ramadhan is that life begins after sun goes down.. now i know it's wrong, but hey! who cares if it's fun..!

Nadia said...

Hilarious :)

Anonymous said...

In my understanding, it is the religious devotion and reflections one should be immersed in therefore as a byproduct if food is forgotten to take then it is fasting. But if constantly one remembers not to take food during day and indulge in the night, then it is not religious. This is true in my opinion irrespective of faith like Islam, Christianity, Jews, Hindus, Jain, Buddhist etc.

I agree with what I said...

Anonymous (above)- you are right. If you take away all signs of temptation you are achieving nothing by abstaining. You can always tell who in the office is serious about it by the ones who come up to you in the office and ask that you go about your daily life as usual and do not worry about them seeing you drink coffee, eat lunch etc.
It is then our decision to respect the fact that there are people fasting and not make a big issue of it.
If you look at timelines on Twitter etc it is only the Khaleejis who keep going on about when the moon will be seen, how life must change etc. many muslims se the moon a day (or two?) earlier further west but it is no big deal.
I have worked with Tunisians, Moroccans, Syrians, Lebanese and many more from further west and ramadan is a simple, personal and internal affair for them.
Khaleejis have pussified themselves.

The Linoleum Surfer said...


Wouldn't you want to show some respect and consideration anyway for the majority of people around you?

What bugs me (as you can tell) is that commercialisation and consumerism, going the way of a western Christmas. Lots of religious terminology and symbolism, but the essence seems to be disappearing.

I'm actually glad that in the GCC, it is a firm social expectation that Ramadhan should be observed at least in the most basic sense. The declining religious sensibilities of some other countries, or emigrant populations, is not something I'd celebrate.

But it does seem increasinsly superficial. This should be a time to be more patient, more considerate, more gentle, more honest, more committed to doing what needs to be done. Laziness, self-indulgence and showing off have no place, and that's what this is about...

I agree with what I said...

TLS- I absolutely agree that your default setting would be to respect those around you and that is a 2-way street, especially when talking about tolerance. Maybe my allusion to respecting those around you was a bit subtle even for your keen linguisticity (?) but it is there.
We had an interesting discussion last week about the parallels of Ramadan and Lent but also of the commercialisation of religious (and pagan!) events, exemplified by the Chinese and their lock, stock adoption of Christmas as a massive event, bigger than Europe, when Buddhists and Taoists are the predominant strains of worship.

lil-bee said...

Hahahahahahahaha, I actually laughed out loud (much to the annoyance of my father who is sleeping .. instead of praying :P)

I may be guilty of doing some of the things in your list. But I'm not telling you which ones.

Hey hey, I am / was fasting ;)

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Oh gosh lol, yep that's about it. Plus the thing that annoys me personally the most that is not on your list is that "these kind of 'fasters'" is that they are the ones who get mad at the non-muslims eating their lunches at the office. And they aren't even fasting according to Islamic tenets. If you're not praying, and you're showing off, sinning by taking interest, honestly. Fasting for me is between me and Allah and someone eating isn't disrespectful to me in the slightest. Nothing in Islam requires anyone but those who are believers to fast. I just prefer people who are sweet (non Muslim friends) avoid gifting me just straight from the oven delicious smelling cookies at 12 in the afternoon lol. I know they mean them sweetly to be for after magraib but.... lol the SMELL:D, sitting under my desk ALL DAY lol. But yeah, people more in tune with what Ramadaan is about (even though they are not fasting) than the hypocrites described in yours post:)

Lee Ying Loves Oman said...


I like the way you are writing it in a sarcastic way yet so true.

MariaStudio said...

as always brilliant post and quite depressing as I know it has a lot of truth in it.

I'm a strong believer that Ramadan is not an excuse for any of the actions that usually surface during the day time in Ramadan.

I'm thankful that I don't belong to that group you have mentioned and don't believe any of my family/friends to a certain extent.

I have some reservations on some of the comments here regarding how scary it is to not eat in public in fear of somebody reporting you to the police!!! that sounds kind of extreme to me and never heard of such incidents. Or at least where I come from.

I do agree it's out there, but again you can watch your own actions and nobody is perfect.

I was hoping that you could highlight some of the good stuff that's happening during the month as well since you have a great fan base :)

Anyways, Ramadan Kareem everyone

Anonymous said...

Hi again, Surfer! I am a newcomer to your blog and
am in awe of your courage. And eloquence.

I'm a zen-minded, feminist, left-wing, middle-aged
former Christian, citizen of the USA. I decided to participate in Ramadan this year by fasting (seven days on nothing but herbal tea) and by reading the Qur'an cover to cover.

There is so much about Islam and the life of The Prophet that I admire. But some things in the Qur'an seem patently wrong. Take for example
the description of Heaven -- "virgins with eyes
downcast" etc.

I'd love to see a column offering your advice to
first-time readers of the Qur'an.

Queen said...

Ramadan Kareem to you too!! This article is surely added to the list of my fav's by the TLS!! as usual you have grabbed the essence of the reality, sun dried it, and served it on a silver ramadan platter! well done :)) and yes, another AGREE with everything you have said!! :))

Olga K. said...

This might just be something like my 12th Ramadan in Oman but I have definetly reached an all time low when I realized I am dying for some water during a trip to Carefour Seeb. Ya, we ended up buying a bottle of water and drinking it in the toilet so that I don't offend anyone. And I am pregnant. And that's discusting.

Anonymous said...

I think for all communities which are tolerant to other religions should not have rules of one religion applied to everyone. Let people follow the religion get tested not the others like Olga K.! At backyard of my home there are at least ten Omani in their twenties comes in afternoon around 12 during Ramdan and eats, drinks and smokes secretly. Secondly countries can not be Muslim, even it takes long for oneself to be real Muslim! Such things portrays us also bad in others eyes too.

I agree with what I said...

Anonymous (above)- you are very correct and I think that what you say is reflected by 99% of Muslims I have ever met.
One of the Muslims in my company says it is more offensive to him that non-Muslims are not allowed to eat and drink in front of him as it means that he is getting off lightly.
The only line he draws is that of smoking as it would involve inhaling through no choice of his own (though he is a non-smoker anyway!).

Anonymous said...

Where are the comments defending Oman?
Stunned silence when the truth hurts.

And not a word from Andy The Twat either!

Probably off doing a Freddie Mercury tribute night somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Well Written myte - seen 20 odd ramadhans here in the middle east.. Half of them in Saudi.... I think Mct's a lot better than Saudi in some ways....

Blue Collar Indian

Anonymous said...

Its a bit like a Communists Regime if you ask me. People should be able to have a choice????