Abu Dhabi: As Muslims in the UAE prepare to mark Eid Al Adha, many of them are also fasting the day before the Eid starts, marking what is known as the day of Arafat, one of the most holiest days on the Islamic calendar.

Unlike the month of Ramadan, fasting on the day of Arafat is considered to be optional for Muslims, and its significance for Muslims is that the day falls in the 9th of Islamic month of Dhu Al Hijjah — the last month on the Islamic calendar, and the month in which the Haj pilgrimage takes places. Adam Morankinya, from Kenya, who fasts on the day of Arafat said the day has a special meaning for him and makes him feel more spiritually connected with his faith.

“I believe that if I fast on this day it builds a strong connection between myself and God, it is a way of getting closer and so it is special for me,” he said.

“Being able to witness Eid every year is like a privilege, so for me personally I feel very good to fast the day before, because it also makes me feel connected with the pilgrims performing the Haj,” he added.

Morankinya also said that the fasting in general helped give him more perspective and appreciation of life.

“Fasting on the day of Arafah is not compulsory but at the same time when I do fast it helps me appreciate what I have and also allows me in a sense to understand what the less fortunate have to go through and how they feel.”

Samay Ahadi, a dual Afghan-Canadian resident, said the Islamic merits of fasting on the day of Arafat were a big reason for why he fasts.

“Fasting on Arafat does have a significance as it’s among the days I fast outside of the obligatory fast. The stakes are high on this day, if I fast then my sins of the previous and upcoming year are forgiven according to Islam. In that sense its importance revolves around me being saved,” he said.

“I try to wake up for suhoor. If I don’t wake up, I carry on with my fast. The routine of my day is pretty normal. I try to add extra acts of worship like reading more Quran, do more dhikr (remembrance of God) and if I am able, I pray voluntary prayers other than the 5 daily prayers,” he added.

Saleh Khamis, from Kenya, echoed the same feelings and said he annually fasts on the day of Arafat.

“It is a special fast for a special time, that is how I see it — the fasting comes before Eid Al Adha and while pilgrims are doing their Haj. The fasting according to Islam during this period is not an obligation, but because of so many significant religious events happening during this time, it is recommended that Muslims do fast if they are able to.

“On the day of Arafat I read the Quran more — I don’t do this alone but I like to bring the family together so that we can read the Quran together. I also perform more voluntary prayers on the day and other religious acts of worship that can bring me closer to Allah.”