7 Things you (probably) didn’t know about Ramadan

From presidential pardons to a month of jail time, there’s much more to the Holy Month than first meets the eye.

EDGAR staff June 17, 2015

Ramadan Kareem everyone! It's that time of the year again when Muslims throughout the UAE and all over the world celebrate the Holy Month.

If you have lived in the Gulf for any amount of time you'll no doubt be aware of all the basic Ramadan rules like no eating, drinking or smoking, live music, blah blah blah... so we're not going to patronise you with that.

However, there are a few things about Ramadan that are slightly less common knowledge. Here are seven things you (probably) didn't know about Ramadan.

Some Muslims can get special dispensation from fasting

While the rules are pretty explicit that eating and drinking is absolutely not allowed between sunrise and sunset each day during Ramadan, in some cases, this regulation can be relaxed. For example, people who are sick, elderly, pregnant, breast-feeding and even professional athletes taking part in competition are exempt. Some people like to make up the missed time if they are able later on in the year.

yaya-toure.jpg Yaya Toure publicly didn't fast during last year's Ramadan as it coincided with the FIFA World Cup.

In the UAE prisoners are pardoned

This year 879 prisoners were given official presidential pardons, released from jail and had their liabilities and debts paid off by His Royal Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. Reserved only for the best-bahaved prisoners, the gesture of goodwill is said to give the former inmates a second chance at contributing to society and an opportunity to spend the Holy Month at home with their families. 

Business booms

While Ramadan is a time for reflection, it is also, it seems, a time for shopping, as business always booms during the Holy Month. According to statistics from marketing company Criteo, during last year's Ramadan, online retail sales went up by 23 per cent and online travel sales rose by a whopping 42 per cent.

TV ratings go sky high

As well as the booming business during the Holy Month, Ramadan also attracts record numbers of television viewers, as the reduced working hours and added downtime invariably means more time in front of the TV. While exact statistics are hard to come by, it is estimated that average TV viewing time in the UAE more than doubles during Ramadan.

Food prices tend to spike (even though they shouldn't)

Everyone may well be fasting during the day, but during Ramadan supermarket shelves are stripped bare, as people stockpile food ready to eat during the nighttime. With the increased demand, supermarkets typically raise their prices, and while the UAE government has acted against the hikes this year by placing price caps on essential commodities, luxury items such as the sweet desserts that are popular during Ramadan are still likely to get more expensive.

Many Muslims actually gain weight

Despite fasting every day for a month, Ramadan is notorious as a time when many people actually gain weight. How? Well, while people do not eat or drink anything in the daytime, the combination of lavish evening iftars and heavy late-night suhoors, plus a lack of exercise and generally reduced daytime activity can see people pile on the pounds. Struggling to keep fit during Ramadan? Read our essential guides on keeping fit and eating healthily during the Holy Month.

Those who break the rules can end up in JAIL!

According to article 313 of the UAE Federal Penal Code, the punishment for eating or drinking during daytime in the Holy Month is a maximum AED2,000 fine or one-month imprisonment. While the police clearly do take rule-breaking seriously, tourists and those who aren't aware of the law usually escape with a warning.