During the blessed month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world abstain from food, drink and other physical needs during the day.
It is a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God and practise self-sacrifice.
Ramadan is much more than not eating and drinking. It is not merely physical refrain, but is rather the total commitment of the person's body and soul to the spirit of the fast.
Islam is a religion that welcomes one and all to its doors.
Many have embraced the religion wilfully and flow with the stream of followers as one.
Seeking the virtues of this month are converts — people who have not inherited Islam but have assessed, analysed and accepted a new way of life.
They are more knowledgeable and aware of their being due to the commitment they have to the change they embraced and the new light they let into their lives.
"I had been playing with the idea of improving focus through principled prayers for a while now. My circle of friends and colleagues are Muslims so I was drawn to their disciplined lifestyle and faith."
"For the last three years, I used to fast just to keep them company but I felt a change from within. I was more relaxed and at ease with myself. The more I understood, the better I felt. So as Ramadan began, I donned my new identity of Mohammad Ameen."
"My mother knew of my inclination towards Islam. She has been supportive because for her, my happiness is important. In time, people around me will come to know of my decision. They may have mixed reactions but I am confident that I will be able to resist the friction and stand firm by my word," he added.
Doris Kholedy, a German convert.
She recalled, "In 1972, while I was in the States, most of my friends whom I visited had timepieces that sounded the Adhaan [call for prayer]. I used to love the sound of it. The words seemed so pure and so inviting that I started to educate myself about Islam."
Coming to Dubai
"In 1976, I went to a mosque and converted," she says.
"The priest there gave me the name Fareeda, together with a Holy Quran that had translations in it. I studied from it but due to unavailable guidance, I couldn't perform my prayers and other duties."
"My job required that I visit Dubai. The place seemed an oasis of culture. The sound of the Adhaan once again echoed in my ears and I longed to be here. I took a transfer here."
"A few years back, I met other converts. With them I was able to learn Islam better. There has been no looking back since. I pray, fast, give Sadaqah [charity] and feel blessed," she added.
Modernity catching up
She also pointed out, "Over the years, Ramadan has lost its spiritual values due to the way some mundane keepers of Islam treat it. As with other things, commercialisation has come upon it which is rather saddening. It is important that spiritual and ethical norms be practised more rather than focusing on festivity and food."
Michelle Kruger, a South African, has been in the UAE for about fouryears. She converted more than two years ago here in Dubai at the Jumeirah Islamic Learning Centre.
Running her own firm as the business development director at Al Essa Marketing Management, she said, "When you convert, there is sometimes a lot of misconceptions among non-Muslim regarding why we convert. I faced this and want to say to new fellow converts: Seek knowledge and always stay strong in what you believe!"
She added, "When I came to Dubai, I was exposed to the Muslim community here. I was intrigued by them, as I felt they had something that I didn't have — peace and harmony."
"That led me to start investigating and reading the Quran. I broadened my knowledge