The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began this week. For Muslims around the world it's a time to reevaluate their spiritual lives through prayer and fasting.
But according to Tufts University professor Vali Nasr, that's about all most non-Muslims know about Ramadan.
He wrote about "Five Things You Didn't Know About Ramadan" in Foreign Policy (free subscription).
Nasr explains that many non-Muslims don't realize what a boon Ramadan is for business in the Arab world, that the holiday is Saudi Arabia's biggest export, after oil, and that globalization has changed Ramadan. He writes:
For the roughly 45 million Muslims now living in the West, strict religious observance can be a lonely affair. Work does not slow for Ramadan, and those fasting must go through the day with co-workers eating and drinking all around. Online guides have sprung up to offer advice on how to manage the resulting feelings of isolation, and influential clerics have made special allowances for Muslims living outside the Middle East. Rulings dating back to the 1970s, for instance, allow Muslims living above 64 degrees latitude (where the sun never sets in the summer months) to start and end the day's fast when it occurs in Mecca or the next major city to the south with a regular sunrise and sunset.
- Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School
This segment aired on August 4, 2011.