Living in a Muslim country means that Islam will affect some parts of your life, whether you are a Muslim or not. Here are some of the things that will be influenced by Islam in your everyday life. All the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries are Muslim countries -if not 100% of the population then a large majority- so whether you are Muslim or not, if you plan to move to one of the MENA countries it’s best to know a few things.
Here is what you need to know if you’re traveling/moving to a Muslim country:
o Greetings: While “hello” is always going to be understood and accepted you’ll soon realize that the usual greeting is the Islamic greeting “salaam alaykum” which means “peace be upon you”. To which you should reply “wa alaykum salaam”.
o Vocabulary: just like the greeting, there are many words and expressions you’ll hear hundreds times a day which are closely linked to Islam. Among the most common: “Bismillah = In the name of Allah” which is spoken at the beginning of just about any activity. “Inshallah = If Allah wills” used as a reminder that God alone has power over things and events and basically used instead of “maybe”. “mashallah“ is used as an expression of deep satisfaction. You’ll also soon learn the meaning of “salah = prayer”, “masjid = mosque” and a few others.
o Prayer times: Depending in which country you live, it could simply mean getting used to hearing the adhan (call for prayer) 5 times a day on the loudspeakers. In some countries, like Saudi Arabia, all activities stop 5 times a day during prayer time so you’ll soon learn to plan your shopping and outings around the prayer times.
o Calendar and Hijri dates: In some Muslim countries, the days of the weekend are Friday and Saturday because Friday is a special day of Islamic celebration and Muslims attend Friday prayer in the mosque. However, not all countries follow this set up. You’ll also notice that dates are often written according to the Islamic Calendar (referred to as Hijri dates) which is based on the lunar cycle. Therefore, while most people use the Gregorian calendar, the Islamic calendar, with its own name of months, is also referred to especially to discuss National holidays such as Ramadan and the period of the pilgrimage: Hajj
o Ramadan: whether you are fasting or not, a Muslim or not, you’ll need to pay attention to a few things during the Holy month of Ramadan and here again rules will vary in the different MENA countries. Generally speaking you’ll be asked to show respect and patience with the fasting population. This may mean refraining from eating, drinking or smoking in public, but it also mean you should be more patient with people as fasting a whole month does drain people of their energy and things tend to slow down during this month. You may also get the chance to be invited to share someone’s Iftar (the break of the fast) at sunset.
o Dress code: take the time to familiarize your self with the basic dress code for men and women in Muslim countries (abaya, jilbab, hijab, niqab, thaub, fez…). The dress code for non-Muslim expat should be modest at all times. No one expects either men or women to dress like the locals but it is preferable to cover your body and to avoid showing too much skin. In some countries such as Saudi Arabia, however, ladies are expected to wear an abaya when they go out of expat compounds and men should avoid wearing shorts above the knees.
o Food and drink: In Islam, the consumption of pork/pork products and alcohol is strongly prohibited but different countries have their own rules regarding those two prohibitions and it is very important you look it up before moving as in some countries, like Libya for instance, breaking the law could lend you in prison.
o Segregation: men and women in Islam prefer to keep some respectful distance and you’ll soon catch on the practices in your new country. As a general guideline avoid physical contact with the other sex unless it is initiated by the other person. Don’t offer to shake a lady’s hand (for men) unless she offers her hand first. You’ll also notice that some areas in public places are segregated along the following lines: men only/ladies only and families.
The thing to remember about Islam and the Muslim culture is that is varies greatly from one MENA country to the next. In order to respect the laws of the land as well as show respect to the people you meet it is important to familiarize yourself with the Muslim culture of the country you plan to call home.
One last thing, Muslim people are usually very open about their religion and they welcome questions from non-Muslim so never feel shy asking about something that you don’t understand. Islam is an integral part of Muslims’ lives, it is a religion that is practiced 24/7 and if you plan to live in a Muslim country, the more informed you are the easier your integration will be… inshallah.
Now click on the Expat & Muslim tab to learn more about Islamic Culture in many different countries such as France, Iran, Pakistan, Australia and many more…