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Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki: What is Ramadan?
July 20, 2012
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One of the beautiful things about the United Arab Emirates is that we get lots of new visitors on a daily basis who have come either to explore or find a new life in our country, one of the things they tend to ask is about Ramadan. So here is my Ramadan 101 to them.

Ramadan is internationally known as the month of fasting for Muslims. Unlike many known holy events around the world Ramadan does not have a fixed date to when it starts on the Gregorian calendar, it follows the lunar Islamic calendar and it occurs on the 9th month. For example in 2012 we have estimated that the month of Ramadan starts somewhere around the 20th July, and in the next year it will start somewhere around two weeks earlier, and so forth for the coming years.

The significance of Ramadan to all Muslims is that it is the month when the Holy Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). It is believed that the rewards for fasting, prayers, charities and recitations of Quran are multiplied when performed during this month.

Ramadan isn’t only celebrated in Muslim countries or Arab countries; you will find it being celebrated in any place such as Europe, Far East or the Americas because you will find Muslim communities everywhere, we are an international faith. There is a minor difference between Ramadan in Muslim and non-Muslim countries, in Muslim countries the governments generally reduce the working hours during this month in consideration for those fasting. For example, in the UAE our official working hours are reduced by 2 hours during the month of Ramadan

So what do we do during Ramadan? From sunrise (Fajr) until sunset (Maghrib) we abstain from eating, drinking and copulation during that time until the calling of the Maghrib prayer. During our fasting we also try to refrain from listening to music, watching suggestive TV programmes, cursing (something we should avoid anyway) as well as having impure thoughts as these might cause us to lose attention in our fasting.

The beauty of Ramadan is that you get to see and feel a higher sense of kinship towards other Muslims. During this time I always find my family busy preparing and distributing dates, harees (a Middle Eastern type of Polenta) and biryani (rice with herbs, spices and either lamb or chicken) to relatives, neighbours, friends, workers, and the less fortunate as well as strangers a few hours before the call of the Maghrib prayer.

This habit is common in the UAE with many of the big families; you will always see crowds waiting outside the gates of villas/palaces, each person taking turns to have his/her own pots/containers filled with what is to be their Iftar (the meal with which we break our fast at sunset), truly these sights are an inspiration to many people in remembering the value of sharing and charity in Islam.

So what rules and behaviours should people from other faiths be following during the time of Ramadan? There are just a few simple things, one of which is that you can still eat and drink but avoid doing it in front of Muslims who are fasting in the daytime and especially in public places, you will find many companies/places having a designated  room for eating, which is usually covered so that no one can see you eat and drink.

Other rules include the need for people to dress moderately during this time and refrain from smoking near anyone who is fasting. I guess all we are asking out of you is just a little more consideration than usual because this holy month of Ramadan is very special to all Muslims.

Truly I do enjoy Ramadan, it is a time when families and relatives get together to have Iftar. I do find it challenging in the first few days, since I am the kind of person who doesn’t function well without his black coffee in the morning. Tempers may flare at first, but it always cool down on the third or fourth day.

Hope this basic and general understanding of Ramadan was insightful to you and I wish you Ramadan Kareem.

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The writer, based in Abu Dhabi,
is a graduate of New York Institute
of Technology (AD). He is the author
of Under My Black Halo.

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