Ramadan. It's that time of year when your routine changes whether you are fasting or not.
Ramadan is a time that means different things to different people.
While most people consider this as a time to draw closer to Allah, others use it as an excuse for lavish spreads and culinary treats.
It is that time of the year when routine changes course whether you are fasting or not.
With shorter working hours, better bargains in stores and a warm atmosphere around souqs of the city, it's a time to make time for yourself and your family.
Definitely a time to come together and feel as one.
Said Rola Dajani, a Lebanese fitness instructor and mother of 2 boys — Omar, 8 and Ali, 6.
She has been in charge of As Seha Wal Quwah Sports Gym in Sharjah for five years now but takes a break from the morning aerobics classes during Ramadan.
"Life has become so fast tracked that this blessed month comes as a speed breaker for us all. During Ramadan, I feel most Muslim families including my own draw closer, we are able to share more time together and discuss things of higher importance like virtue and principles with our children," she said.
"In prayer and fasting we gain strength of the mind and body. I utilise this month to be with my children, teach them about what really matters in life."
Mushtaq Ali, an Indian photographer who works at Design Corner advertising and marketing agency, is experiencing Ramadan in the UAE for the first time.
Fulfilment and peace
It has been only six months that he started work here. "Ramadan gives one a sense of fulfilment and peace. Due to the shorter working hours I am able to devote more time to Quran recitation and prayers."
"I am here by myself and live in a bachelor's accommodation. My roommates are all Muslims and together we prepare iftar and dinner – it's a whole new ambience, an enriching experience," he said.
"The shops are crammed with people loading trolleys with eateries and goods. In their rush for better deals and meals people have lost the true essence of this month."
"This is a time to refresh the spirit and strengthen the soul. The fast of Ramadan is not merely to deprive the body of food and drink but to appreciate the many things we have," he added.
Hans De Wit is a pilot with KLM airlines, he hails from Amsterdam, Netherlands and has been a witness to the growing Emirates for the last 33 years now.
"Over the years Ramadan has taken a commercial course. Its more of a marketing and shopping time than a time to reflect and unite as brothers in Islam."
"I have noted that in the olden days when luxuries were few people were content with what they had," he said.
"But now everyone seems to be on a gathering spree — whether its food, clothing or furnishing."
"Traffic gets congested during after Isha and Taraweeh hours due to shoppers, malls get crowded and crimes like shoplifting and pick pocketing take ground. Its saddening that Ramadan is not what it used to be."
Marwa Ispeleta, a Filipino sales lady who works at a garment store in Safeer Mall Ajman.
"My work timings are different in Ramadan, I begin at 12 noon instead of 9am but work goes on until 1am due to keen shoppers. We have a good management, they allow us Muslims to relax and run shifts so that we can best able to utilise our time and energy. Thus I am able to perform both my religious and professional duties," she said.
She pointed out that she had not always been a Muslim, her life's greatest blessing she feels is that she did not inherit the religion.
"I was able to consciously apprehend, understand, appreciate and then accept Islam out of free will. Life has taken a turn since I converted in 1999. I have been fasting all through Ramadan for the last five years. "
"Apart from this I also fast on Mondays and Thursdays as often as I can, this is from Prophet Mohammad's sunnah. It is not a difficult task to fast, it is one that gives us a better understanding of other lesser fortunate people and their problems."
"Hunger and thirst give birth to a greater sense of thankfulness towards the Almighty Allah. His blessings come in parcels of various sizes — it may be something as routine as a good job to a strikingly big favour like an obstacle or hindrance cleared."
Truth of life
"There are many things that we as human take for granted like the air we breathe, the health we have or the ability to think. I have learnt the truth of life and work towards meeting my purpose in this world everyday — not just in Ramadan."
Deepak Tulsiani has been in the advertising and sales field for the last 8 years. From his Gulf experience of Ramadan he said, "This is a time that enables us to connect with family and friends. "