The holy month of Ramadan is here just a few days away. We tell you more about the traditions and practices to be observed during this period
A celebration of spirituality, humility and patience, that’s what the essence of Ramadan is. Considered as one of the most sacred months in Islamic culture, Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Holy Quran by being devout and fasting and abstaining from food, smoking and unclean thoughts between dawn and dusk during this period. The start and end of Ramadan are announced a day prior following observations by religious experts. This year, it is expected to start on May 5 until June 4. The dates are always subject to change depending sighting of a new moon.
Why is Ramadan celebrated?
Ramadan is knows as one of the five pillars of Islam, the other four are Faith (Shahadah), Prayer (Salah), Charitable Giving (Zakah) and the Pilgrimage to Makkah (Haj). It is believed to a period in which the Prophet Muhammad received his first revelations. They say that during this time the gates to heaven are opened and the gates to hell closed. So, Muslims are asked to fast and spend time in prayer with loved ones. The aim being attainment of piety. This however, is also a reminder of the fact that humans are not just a physical embodiment, they are also a soul. Throughout this month people fast for various reasons, one is that it allows them to reflect on devotion to their faith, be thankful, seek forgiveness and be helpful. It also brings the whole community together and promotes unity, for instance, when they go to offer Tarawih prayer after iftar at the mosque together or have shared meals. Remember that not everyone is required to fast. Children, elderly and pregnant, post-natal, breastfeeding or menstruating women, travellers or people with physical or mental illnesses are excused.
What to expect in UAE?
During the holy month, the city is overcome by the spirit of Ramadan that encompasses charity, goodness and great food. Festive tents are constructed to allow people of different nationalities to experience traditions and authentic Arabic food. Shops stay shut during the day and re-open an hour or two after sunset until later at night. Offices reduce two hours from their work schedule. Restaurants and food joints remain closed or offer takeaway services during the day and then open after sunset. You will spot people dressed in the finest clothes, women decked in beautiful abayas and children in their best. Through this scared month be prepared to witness the best of Emirati hospitality.
What to eat?
Iftar and suhoor are the two main meals had during Ramadan. The former aids in breaking the fast after sunset. Dates, dried apricots and juices are had before the evening prayer. Post that, an elaborate fare is enjoyed with family and friends. Suhoor on the other hand is had just before sunrise, before you begin fasting for the day. Special dishes and drinks like Jellab, Amar al-Deen and Tamar Hindi are prepared. After breaking their fast people eat sweet treats like Kunafa, Luqaimat and Atayef. While most people host these meals at their homes, restaurants and hotels also have some unique iftars and suhoors that are worth the experience.
What to do and what not to do?
As a mark of respect for the community, it is essential that everyone, irrespective of their religion should behave in a way that is modest and obliging.
· Embrace the community spirit and wish Muslim friends and colleagues a blessed Ramadan by saying Ramadan Kareem or Ramdan Mubarak
· This is the month of giving, so participate in charitable activities
· Use your headphones to listen to music without disturbing others
· If you are invited to an iftar meal or called over by friends to break the fast, be courteous and accept the invitation
· Cover up and dress appropriately
· Don’t drink, chew gum, eat, smoke or listen to music loudly in public
· Men and women should avoid wearing revealing or tight clothes
· Fighting and swearing is a strict no as Ramadan preaches peace and love
· Don’t play loud music or sing or dance in public
· Do not eat in front of those who are fasting
The blessed month of Ramadan concludes with Eid Al Fitr, a three-day feast that roughly translated to “festival of breaking the fast”. Every nook and cranny of the country comes alive with fun activities, shopping sales and the likes in celebration of this important holiday.
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