Majority of migrant Muslims devoutly observe Ramadan abroad than at home

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Muslim workers break their fast with a free Iftar dinner during the holy month of Ramadan in Dubai, on 24 July, 2012. Muslims fasting in the month of Ramadan must abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn to dusk, when they break the fast with a meal known as iftar. Photo – Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

Majority of Muslims living and working overseas observe cultural and religious traditions during the holy month of Ramadan even more devoutly than they did in their home countries, a newly released study revealed.

The finding suggested actions of Muslims living and working abroad changed during Ramadan after their arrival in the host country, with half of respondents (50%) fasting more and two in five (41%) sharing and giving more.

The study entitled “Traditions of Ramadan by global citizens of Muslim faith” was sponsored by Western Union and conducted by The Nielsen Company in July. It covered Muslims of 11 nationalities living in 12 countries in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, US and western Europe.

Overall, fasting (96%), sharing and giving (94%) were the most widely practiced of all traditions observed during Ramadan. Two out of five surveyed said that the love of family and friends, along with dedication to work, were the key factors motivating more fasting, praying, sharing and giving.

“Living in another country often brings different cultural influences along with new work and personal pressures. Global citizens of Muslim faith are upholding Islamic traditions and are even more devout during the Holy Month of Ramadan,” Laston Charriez, senior vice president of marketing, North America, Western Union, said.

“Western Union has been moving money for better, for more than 135 years. We know people move away from their home countries for many reasons, but a common factor is creating a better life for their families and loved ones through work opportunities,” he added.

“It is difficult for people of any faith or nationality to be away from home during traditional cultural and religious events and holidays. It is not surprising to see that family, loved ones and friends, along with commitment to work, are even more influential when people live overseas.”

The study observed different traditions followed during the holy month of Ramadan. Despite being away from family and loved ones, 96% practiced fasting, 89% prayed, 78% engaged in iftar, or evening meals to break the day’s fast, and 75% read the Holy Qur’an.

The tradition of zakat, or the act of giving to others in need, is practiced more during Ramadan, with nearly nine in 10 Muslims abroad (89%) said they fulfilled zakat during the holy month.

Breaking fast is popular with other people instead of alone, with family (75%) being the most favoured companions, closely followed by friends (65%).

Accessibility to facilities for religious purposes (62%) and the influence of family, loved ones and friends (52%) are the most important influencers in fasting more during Ramadan.

The Western Union report highlighted that a vast majority (94%) uphold sharing and giving traditions during Ramadan.

The zakat obligation is most commonly fulfilled through sharing with people who are known to the giver locally or overseas (65%). Arab Muslims are more likely to share with people they know locally (42%) than overseas (29%), while the reverse is true for non-Arab Muslims (49% local; 56% overseas).

Muslims from the Middle East and the United States are more likely to fulfil zakat through donations to charity (53% and 54% respectively).

Overall, the most common gift during Ramadan was cash (92%), followed by clothes (40%), food (36%) and other products (21%). Clothing was more popular (53%) outside of the Middle East.

“Cash is very versatile and convenient to give, either locally or when helping people abroad, which explains its popularity,” Charriez underlined. “However, the important finding is that the vast majority of Muslims continue to help meet real needs, both in their home and adoptive communities, by fulfilling their duty of zakat.”

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