By Kelly Crane, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: September 18, 2007, 23:50
When it comes to knowing what to do – and what not to do – during Ramadan, most of us know the basics: don’t eat and drink in public places, ladies cover up more so than usual and no entertainment across the UAE.
But how many of us actually know why and understand the culture in which we, as expatriates, are living?
Salamah Ghudayer, a cultural presenter from the Shaikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding, says people should even go as far as toning down their blaring mobile ring tones so as not to offend Muslims at work and in the streets.
She says: “Anyone living in the UAE is a visitor here and should respect the traditions of the country.
“Everyone is welcome here, but that invitation has been extended in the hope each individual will try to learn a little about the religion, heritage and traditions of the country in which they have arrived.”
Ramadan is the month during which fasting is obligatory for all Muslims.
It is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar (Hijri year).
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and during Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset. At Maghrib, the time of the fourth prayer, the fast is broken and iftar starts.
The month is a time of piety, charity and good deeds and Muslims refrain from smoking and talking ill of others.
They are expected to spend a large part of their time praying and reading the Quran and helping people worse off than themselves by giving money to the poor or donating food to charity.
Fasting develops a believer’s moral and spiritual values and keeps them away from greed, selfishness and material concerns.
Salamah added: “It is simple really. It’s about being considerate to those around you. Playing loud music in your car is another thing which many non-Muslims don’t think about.
“We all appreciate that not everyone knows exactly what Ramadan is about or how they should behave, but I would encourage people to learn – it is polite and shows an interest in the country you live in.”
Symbols of Ramadan
There are some special decorations that symbolise Ramadan. Among them the lantern and the cannon are the most popular. The lantern signifies light and the cannon sounds the time for iftar.
People usually eat dates and drink water to break their fast as Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) did, so dates are a must on an iftar table.
Salamah Ghudayer, from the Shaikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding, said: “I would encourage non-Muslims to go along to iftar at least once during Ramadan. It is a wonderful experience and will allow you to see, understand and even meet Muslims who are fasting.
“The most basic piece of advice is to have patience. That goes for people of all nationalities – including Muslims. Non-Muslims must be open to becoming educated about the ways of Ramadan and Muslims must respect that some people are still learning.
“If we all have patience, everything will be OK.”
What to do during Ramadan
* Try to cultivate piety.
* Refrain from bad actions.
* Pray and ask for forgiveness. Ramadan is the month of forgiveness.
* Read the Quran.
* Help the needy and give to the poor.
* Ideally, you must double whatever you give during Ramadan, if you can afford it.
* Do not throw away leftover food. Donate it to the needy.
* Join charity groups and do social work.
* Behaviour code
* Do not eat, drink, smoke or chew in public.
* Do not wear revealing clothes.
* Maintain decorum and propriety at all times.