Ramadan for Expats
For many Arab expatriates in the UAE, Ramadan is a month to reflect and spend quality time with family and friends. But we feel many of the expats who have recently migrated to the UAE, might face some speed bumps in understanding few common things during this holy month. We take this opportunity for those who need a brief on it.
Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, a time where millions of Muslims around the world unite over one activity: Fasting. During this month, people abstain from food and water from dawn to dusk. Not only that but they also refrain from smoking and other vices in favor of prayer and spirituality.
As an expat, you may hear few words that are unknown to you during this holy month, let us guide you with them and their meaning in order to get you indulged in a conversion;
• Ramadan: it’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The word comes from the root words ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, which roughly translate to the scorching heat of the sun. For Muslims this means a time of deep spiritual discipline where they reaffirm their relationship with Allah and through which, in keeping with the name, their sins will be burnt away.
• Ramadan Kareem/ Mubarak; A way of greeting during Ramadan are “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem“, which wishes the recipient a blessed or generous Ramadan.
• Suhur / Suhoor / Sehri ; The meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting This meal is eaten before fajr prayer (1st prayer of the day usually). Suhur is regarded by Islamic traditions as a benefit of the blessings in that it allows the person fasting to avoid weakness caused by the fast.
• Iftar; Iftar is a meal taken after sunset during Ramadan & mostly starts with “Dua (prayer)”. It is a common belief that Dua made during Iftar is readily accepted. Iftar should be immediately taken after the sunset, Muslims break their fast with a sip of water and some dates, the way they believe the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast more than a thousand years ago.
• Tarawih or Taraweeh ; Refers to extra prayers performed by Muslims at night in the Islamic month of Ramadan which is when Muslims pray in the Mosque after Iftar and are in need of abayas and prayer clothes.
• Eid or Eid ul’Fitr; To mark the end of Ramadan, determined by sighting of the moon on the 29th day, a 3-day celebration called Eid ul-Fitr brings families and friends together in early morning prayers followed by picnics, feasts and fun.
Here’s what a day of fasting during Ramadan is like:
• Muslims have a predawn meal called the “suhoor.”
• Then, they fast all day until sunset.
• At sunset, Muslims break their fast with a sip of water and some dates, the way they believe the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast more than a thousand years ago.
• After sunset prayers, they gather at event halls, mosques or at home with family and friends in a large feast called “iftar.”
Challenges during Ramadan for an expat:-
• During Ramadan, fasting prohibits listening to any gossip, entering any places considered sinful and speaking ill of anyone. Therefore, fasting is not just physical; it is in fact total commitment to practice self-restraint.
• During Ramadan food kiosks are closed until iftar time. This is prompted by the government’s request that non-Muslims respect those who are fasting. Watching people eat and drink can be too tempting! Restaurants, on the other hand, remain open and serve food behind screens, which are then moved away when iftar comes round.
• During Ramadan, its prohibited to smoke for those who are fasting Because it’s something that you ingest through your mouth, if you smoke your fast breaks. So as an expat try to smoke in the designated areas or try to avoid smoking in front of your friends who maybe fasting.
• Dress modestly as it is the holy month and you would want to blend in the flavor rather than stand out.
What you can do to make the Ramadan experience much enjoyable;-
• Don’t miss out on a iftar feast: Ramadan is the time when the community comes together to enjoy a huge spread in the evenings as everybody gathers to break the fast. After the prayers are offered, many restaurants put out their best spreads to tickle your gastronomical needs. Don’t watch your weight but indulge in the delicacies as tents are set up all over the city to give a regional feel. Don’t shy away from accepting an invitation from a local family if they invite you or you can download our app to find out venues which serve iftar meals
• Sharing & Caring / Charity / food drives : Ramadan is about (spiritual) growth, which entails thinking of someone other than ourselves – especially the ones less fortunate. Last year, Dubai Charity Association set aside AED 20,000,000 for the poor inspiring people of all beliefs to follow suit. Why not donate some money, a bit of your time or a few unwanted things? In Islam or in any religion – generosity makes you feel good. One of the ways in which you can get involved is the Ramadan Sharing Fridges initiative. A few amazing women introduced the concept of ‘Ramadan sharing fridges’ last year and it became a huge success right away. Now almost every community in Dubai has at least one fridge outside their neighbourhood mosque or a house. The idea behind these fridges is that the whole community helps to keep them replenished every day during Ramadan, for people less fortunate to take advantage of the free food, especially those who’re fasting. Join their Facebook group, Ramadan Sharing Fridges, to find out more you can like our Facebook page as we post most of the community service events on our page.
• Explore the local culture : It’s cool to catch up on films you didn’t have time to see or binge-watch the newest season of your favourite series, but dedicating some time to learning Arabic or taking your friends out on a tour of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque or the UAE museums, can be just as fun. Al Bastakiya, Dubai Museum, Hatta Heritage Village – explore, learn, broaden your horizons. In short – stay active & Stay Out N About.
Wishing You & Your Family “Ramadan Kareem & Eid Mubarak”