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Dubai residents’ social project revives Islamic traditions

Islamic customs introduced through retail

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Lina Salhi, who has started a company to revive lost Islamictraditions, shows her Ramadan chocolate calendar.
Gulf News

Dubai: A group of UAE Muslim residents are working to reintroduce old and forgotten Islamic traditions and characters through retail products launched during the month of Ramadan.

Syrian-Canadian Lina Salhi, one of the four founders of the social project company Hilalful, told Gulf News that she realised several customs were missing and that Arab children are growing up disconnected from traditional observances like Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha, Isra Wal Meraj, and the New Hijri Year.

The loss of understanding behind the festivity prompted her to interview elderly Arab men and women for research on Islamic customs. She said the research was used to design products that capture and communicate the essence of Islamic celebrations.

For the past 10 years, Salhi has been closely tied with social causes from her student days at a university in Dubai, and later partnering with the Red Crescent, Unesco and Manar Al Iman Charity School, among others.

“Values and meaning just aren’t there. Kids today tend to associate celebrations with good food, sleeping in late and watching television. They know little about the most loved characters tied to our celebrations. People need to be reminded of these,” said Salhi.

Through Islamic product designs, the founders have reintroduced characters and moral lessons from the Quran in the form of riddles and illustrations. “We have revived a few cheerful characters from our rich heritage,” she said.

One of the characters is ‘Musaharati’, she explained. The Musaharati is a person entrusted with the responsibility of waking people up for their Suhoor meal; he would go from house to house on foot. Another one is ‘hakawati’, a teller of tales, who would teach everyone in the village morals through his engaging stories. She added that the traditional Ramadan lamp called the ‘fanous’ has also been introduced.

Gulf News spoke to a couple of Arab residents who reminisce about Islamic traditions. Emirati Amal Al Falasi, a government employee in Dubai, said her association with the Musaharati is someone who would wake people up by playing on a traditional drum. “When I was younger, he used to be in our neighbourhood. I don’t know why this tradition disappeared. I also miss the way people used to visit each other often during Ramadan.”

Mojhazy Al Badrawy, an Egyptian political analyst in Dubai, spoke of a radio programme airing tales from One Thousand and One Nights and the use of the traditional fanous. He said, “We used to wait every iftar to hear a story on radio. I also used to carry the traditional lamp with a candle, visiting friends around the neighbourhood.”