Ramadan

13:35 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, a time when individuals dedicate their time in becoming closer to Allah.

The Islamic Calendar follows the cycles of the moon, and therefore falls on a different date every year. Ramadan 2010 is due to start tomorrow (Wednesday 11th August) in the UAE. Ramadan usually lasts for 30 days.

The main element of Ramadan is fasting. Muslims are expected to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking during sunlight hours. Working hours are reduced, so people can concentrate on their fast and their religion. Intimate relations, live music and dancing are also not allowed.

Muslims believe fasting demonstrates their devotion to Allah. The fast is broken at sunset with the Iftar meal (which I will write about later). Every adult Muslim is expected to fast. Exemptions are made for those who are pregnant, disabled or seriously ill. A Fatwa (Islamic legal ruling) has been released allowing those Muslims who suffer extreme hardship in their work, such as labourers, to break their fast. However many will choose to continue to fast , in their devotion to Allah.

Fasting has many personal benefits. It allows for physical and spiritual purification. You rid your body of toxins and dedicate more time to religious thoughts. You reduce your dependence on material things and focus on a greater awareness. Eating, shopping and entertainment are believed to be secondary to your religion. The time you gain from working less is spent contemplating life and religion.

The temperature is close to 50C currently in the UAE and the fast is going to be very difficult. It will require huge mental strength, stamina and belief to fast for a whole month in this climate. I have decided to try fasting; but only for a day and I'll still drink water. But I want to try to begin to understand what my friends are experiencing. I'll let you know how I get on!

As a westerner, I am not expected to fast, however I am expected to respect my hosts and their religion. Eating, drinking and smoking in public is not permitted. You can eat privately in your home, and some restaurants and cafes provide separate curtained-off sections so you can still eat during the day.

For me, Ramadan provides several opportunities. I get to experience a different culture's tradition, rather than merely read about it. It's also a time to clean up my diet by not drinking alcohol! Finally I can follow the example set by Muslims and take reflect on my situation. I don't currently have strong religious beliefs, but I an grateful for my family, friends, health and my career. Ramadan gives me the opportunity to remind myself of how fortunate I am.

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