As millions of Muslims prepare for the Holy Month of Ramadan, modern technology and social media have stepped in to help them share their views and wishes during this special time in the Muslim calendar. Muslims are taking this opportunity to raise awareness and encourage one another to make the best of the Holy Month. Companies and organizations are also supporting their social responsibility initiatives on this occasion by offering internet services and mobile applications to help people give a deeper meaning to Ramadan. For example, Nokia’s free “Ramadan application suite” allows users to look for the nearest mosque, keep track of prayer times and browse the Quran, whereas iPhone’s “Ramadan Booster Pro” offers tips and recommendations related to the Holy Month. In addition, MSD pharmaceutical firm launched an iPhone application helping Muslim diabetics make sure they are able to control their blood sugar levels while fasting. All these applications are designed to help users perform their religious rituals with ease and find the right spiritual and physical balance.
Meanwhile, Salam World, or “Muslim Facebook,” is a new project being launched this Ramadan with the intention of serving the needs of the Muslim community by offering a communication platform with Islamic content. Salam World hosts many applications that allow Muslims to educate themselves on the Islamic heritage using eBooks, an Islamic encyclopedia and interactive sessions with qualified scholars and experts on Islamic science. The main purpose of the project is to provide Muslims with their own space on the internet and on social networking sites to interact with one another in a ‘halal’ way, i.e. a way that is religiously permissible.
Not only have Ramadan-specific technology-based offers increased in recent years, but more and more online users have been using social media platforms to share their thoughts or disseminate important information about the Holy Month. That’s why in this Buzz report we took a closer look at what social media users have been discussing in relation to Ramadan. The following analysis is based on a sample of 700 tweets out of the total of 3169 unique mentions captured in the UAE and Kuwait. For our search, we used different spelling variations of the keyword “Ramadan” in both English and Arabic, as well as popular Twitter hashtags between July 1st and July 10th 2012.
Arabic is the first official language of the UAE and Kuwait, but findings showed that users in both countries used both Arabic and English to express themselves. In the UAE, 85% of comments were in English compared to 15% in Arabic, whereas 89% of Kuwaiti comments were in Arabic and only 11% were in English.
In general, the content in Arabic posted by users in Kuwait mostly came from religious leaders trying to educate people about Ramadan and inspire them to take a more serious interest in their religion. More than two thirds of the volume analyzed was of a religious nature. Users shared videos and pictures that emphasized the spirit of Ramadan to prepare worshippers for the special days to come. The remainder of the volume analyzed was related to charitable events or grants-in-aid within the Arab region.
Thus, the bulk of comments were discussing the ethical and religious dimensions of Ramadan by sharing different videos of religious leaders’ speeches on the matter. Many charity-related initiatives were being tweeted, particularly charities directed towards Syria, Africa and needy families in the GCC region. 14% of users also shared information about the different TV shows and series airing during Ramadan; most comments expressed negative sentiments towards them, believing them to be a distraction from prayer and worship, which are the main objectives of Ramadan. Meanwhile, plenty of posts related their prayers and wishes for the Holy Month and expressed their excitement towards it.
Due to the low volume of English conversation on social media in Kuwait, it was not possible to detect distinct trends. Most comments expressed excitement about the upcoming Holy Month, sharing food tips and discussing Ramadan TV shows. A tweet about a charity initiative within the context of Kim Kardashian’s visit to Kuwait was retweeted several times:
Findings on derived from the content in Arabic posted by users in UAE were somewhat similar to those in Kuwait. Many users discussed different spiritual elements of Ramadan, i.e. how to be a better person, prayer schedules, performing Omra (lesser pilgrimage) during Ramadan, etc. Almost half of users expressed their excitement by posting prayers and wishes for the Holy Month. UAE-based users were more excited about the TV shows and series that would be airing during the month and unlike in Kuwait, very few were opposed to them due to religious concerns. Meanwhile, 12% of the volume was related to charity initiatives in the region, organizing visits of friends and family and participating in Ramadan-related events.
The English-language conversation in the UAE presented a slightly different picture than the Arabic-language buzz in both the UAE and in Kuwait. Though the general topics of discussion remained the same, the approaches to these topics and the focus of discussion varied. Tips and instructions on what to do during Ramadan made up 35% of the total buzz and mostly consisted of fasting tips, food recipes, iftar (the meal during which Muslims break their fast) suggestions or warnings of scams. One humorous video instructed users on how to behave during Ramadan. Only 2% shared wishes or prayers and 6% discussed the TV-shows, whereas the proportion of English posts that discussed events or organizations was larger than in Arabic (15%). Users also discussed food prices, opening hours during Ramadan and the exact date on which Ramadan was to begin.
In addition to these topics, four more discussion categories could be identified in the UAE that did not trend in the comments posted in Arabic. The largest topic was linked to marketing, advertising and promotions. As a lot of posts promoted special Ramadan offers, ads, or events. Many posts also simply expressed the author’s excitement towards Ramadan in a way that could not be found in the Arabic buzz e.g. just by saying “I can’t wait for Ramadan!”. In addition, more than 30 comments discussed plans before, during or after Ramadan, and some users stated that they were going to be travelling abroad during the Holy Month and wondered what spending Ramadan away from home was going to be like. Finally, a proportion of users feared certain restrictions during Ramadan and criticized the fact that there was a smaller inclination towards charity during the rest of the year.
Here are some insights to provide a deeper understanding of the conversation on social media platforms in both Arabic and in English:
Comparing the analyses of the Arabic and English-language conversation, we found, that:
- Arabic conversation is more related to religious matters e.g. excitement towards Ramadan is expressed in prayers and wishes.
- The majority of English charity-related posts either disseminated information about an initiative or an event whereas the Arabic posts usually offered help.
- The posts captured in English focused on the organizational aspects of Ramadan such as food, locations, plans, events and so on; in Arabic, the focus was on religious content, especially in Kuwait because the majority of the content was spread by religious leaders.
- A huge proportion of the English-language buzz was advertising and promotions—none of which could be found in Arabic.
This poses the question of whether the topics of discussion are more affected by language or region. The analysis indicates that the language affects how the ideas are expressed and the topics of discussion are a factor in determining which languages are used. For example, to express excitement, Arabic-speaking users posted prayers, whereas in English expressions of excitement were limited to simple, straight-forward statements.
To conclude this week’s Buzz Report, we used user comments to extract some general Do’s and Don’ts during Ramadan. To conclude, Ramadan Kareem!
The Buzz Report monitors trends and themes that dominate current discussions on various social media platforms. Our research included UAE and in Kuwait-based content related to Ramadan. The data obtained in both Arabic and English was captured the period between July 1st to July 10th. Our search was both manual and automated, using the various English and Arabic spellings of “Ramadan” as our keyword.
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