Take time to understand Ramadan
Cultural Understanding chief urges everyone to embrace the spirit of the Holy Month
With the Holy Month of Ramadan upon us, Muslims across the world are observing a very special time in their faith.
While they are well-versed in the customs, traditions and history of Ramadan, many non-Muslims and expatriates in the UAE have lots of questions to ask about this sacred month.
On the surface, it can appear that Ramadan is all about things you can’t do. However, Nasif Kayed, general manager of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in Bur Dubai, says that’s not the way to look at it at all.
He explains that Ramadan is actually a time to count your blessings and for thinking about others - it’s a time for introspection but also for embracing the Muslim culture. Everyone can take part to some extent.
“Let’s not judge, let’s understand,” Kayed says. “With Ramadan come acts of God, acts of kindness, feeding the poor, inviting people in as a family. It has an effect on our social world.”
Kayed stresses that it should be a time for everyone to value what they have.
“Look at how much we leave, leftovers we throw away. Look at how much is wasted when there are people who probably haven’t had meat in years, maybe, so do you value the food? Do you value the way it comes to you? Do you realise the two gifts are amazing, food and water, but you might take them for granted.”
Kayed also explains that the Holy Month is a time for self-improvement so you should “discipline your mouth, your ears, your eyes and your whole body language” thus helping you to become “very peaceful, very human and very kind”.
Kayed said: “These things really are what the 29 days are an exercise of. Hopefully this exercise is like going to the gym.
“Now you feel better, you are in better spiritual shape and have a better inner self and outer self. From in and out you have exercised to enhance yourself and you saw that you were capable.
“Try after Ramadan to keep it up. By the time you lose it all, Ramadan comes around again and you go to the ‘gym’ and do it all over again.”
Finally, Ramadan is a great time to make friends and experience UAE culture.
“People are always asking how to meet Emirati people,” says cultural presenter, Salamah Al Mahajira. “Ramadan is a perfect time to go in the early evening to your neighbour’s house, maybe bring a plate of sweets, and introduce yourself.”
Understanding Ramadan – some key terms explained
Maghrib – The time of breaking the fast, which is the same as sunset prayer time. After having a sip of water to break their fast, Muslims should pray the Maghrib prayer then come back to finish their Iftar.
Iftar – The first meal after breaking the fast. Religiously, the meal should be dates and water to symbolise moderation and identifying with the poor. The Iftar timing this year will be roughly about 7.15pm. It will change slightly as the month progresses according to the sunset time.
Fajr – The sunrise time that signals the beginning of fasting. It is roughly 4.10am this Ramadan and it will also change slightly through the month according to the sun.
Suhour – The last meal before starting the fast. It should be as close as possible to Fajr prayer.
Zakat - The suggested amount of charitable donation that is supposed to be given to the poor before the end of Ramadan.
Crescent (moon sighting) - The crescent signals the beginning of Ramadan. It only requires one person to see it and report it to the moon sighting committee for the whole country to start fasting.
Taraweeh – An additional prayer that only takes place in Ramadan. It should follow the Isha’a prayer (roughly 8.40pm). It has to be held in the mosque for men while women can perform it in their homes.
Eid Al Fitr (the celebration of breaking the fast) – The sighting of the next crescent after Ramadan signals the end of Holy Month and the beginning of Eid Al Fitr.