Is work during Ramadan worship?

Posted on September 13, 2007

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Meena S Janardhan

Note from Rafik Beekun: This is  a reprint of an older article, but the issues it brings up are still current and being brought up each Ramadan. 

 DUBAI, Oct 25, 2005 (IPS) – Ramadan is a period of fasting, prayer and penance for Muslims everywhere but, in the Gulf countries, it is also a month of reduced working hours to help the faithful observe the strict regimen. Of late, however, the fewer working hours has become the subject of debate in terms of its necessity, interpretation, application and economic costs.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) issues a circular prior to Ramadan indicating that working hours for all categories of workers should be reduced from eight to six during the holy month which, this year, falls between October 4 and November 2.

But analysts estimate that two fewer working hours could cost the country 73.88 million dirhams (20 million US dollars) in daily productivity loss.

According to the UAE Central Bank, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), last year, was 323.6 billion dirhams (88 billion dollars), which translates to a daily GDP of 886.57 million dirhams (243 million dollars) or 36.94 million dirhams (10 million dollars) in hourly GDP.

At this rate, the UAE would lose 2.21 billion dirhams (605 million dollars) in productivity during Ramadan.

Given the financial cost and the fact that reduced working hours are applicable only in the Gulf countries, many argue that this practice is unnecessary. However, others support the measure citing practical difficulties in observing the fast.

“Today we have all the best and most modern amenities available in the UAE. Therefore, reducing the working hours is not really necessary,” said Ismail Ahmed, an information technology professional working at Dubai Media City.

“There is no clear text in the Sharia or Holy Quran that says working hours must be reduced during Ramadan. They should remain the same because by working while fasting the person benefits more during the month,” said the Imam (priest) of a mosque in Sharjah.

“However, hours can be reduced during the last 10 days of Ramadan when we have to stay awake all night for special prayers,” the Imam added.

In a statement, Saif Bin Rashid Al Gabiri, Director of Ifta and Research Administration in the Dubai Department of Islamic Affairs and Awqaf, said: “The month of Ramadan is a month of performing rituals, praying and fasting. However, working is part of worshipping. The Sharia does not force the employer to reduce working hours. There is no clause that says working hours must be reduced. On the other hand, Muslims must get time to fulfil their religious duties.” [more]

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