Accessibility links

Breaking News

Muslim Holy Month Set to Begin This Week

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting and prayer, is to begin later this week. In some predominantly Muslim nations, the period marks a slowdown in business, an increasing concern in the Arab world as it tries to stake out a place in the global economy.

The demands of the global economy may seem at odds with a period of intense spiritual devotion.

But Sheikh Abdel Fattah Allam, the Deputy of Al-Azhar Institute in Cairo, says there is no conflict between Ramadan and modern, worldly affairs. "When Islam mandated this worship, it was to push us to work and advance and was never meant to slow down productivity," he said.

But here in Egypt, it's summer. It's hot. And the long days of fasting can take their toll.

The government and many businesses try to make it easier, setting shorter hours.

But the concessions come at a price. Less work is done. Productivity drops.

For some, that's not the point. "Earnings are from God, al-Hamdulillah [Thanks to God]. We believe he is the provider. Everything is fine, thanks be to God," said one vendor.

And Ramadan, at least at the local level, can provide its own economic benefits. "Some people, they take Ramadan as an excuse to work less. But people here like us here, Ramadan, no Ramadan, same hours, same activities. No problem, because people in Ramadan like to buy things," said a spice vendor.

"[Caliph] Omar saw a man at a mosque and asked him "Who's providing for you?" The man said its my brother. The Caliph told him "your brother's more pious than you, because he's working while you sit here praying, counting on his support," said Sheikh Abdel Fattah Allam.