The pandemic has disrupted many aspects of daily life — including traditions both sacred and routine, but it has also opened a unique opportunity to adapt to new challenges
Ramadan is that time of the year when life takes a different routine. There is a shift in various areas of focus for many of us. It could be with regard to spirituality, health, family and even the spirit of community.
After last year’s Ramadan with its pandemic-altered observances, where mosques were shuttered and community gatherings prohibited, Muslims in the UAE are this year observing Ramadan with fewer restrictions as they look back with gratitude at the lessons learnt and accept the new normal.
The little joys
Widad Abdalhadi, Palestinian, Marketing Manager, is renewing his vows as a Muslim during Ramadan. “It is the month when I give, reflect and connect with Allah, with the people around me and myself,” says Abdalhadi. “Last year, during Covid, we learnt to be grateful for our blessings. I’m glad that this year, we are able to do taraweeh [special night prayers] and enjoy iftar with our loved ones.”
Last year, during Covid, we learnt to be grateful for our blessings. I’m glad that this year, we are able to do taraweeh [special night prayers] and enjoy iftar with our loved ones.
Recollecting his earliest memory of Ramadan, Abdalhadi says he loved the couple of minutes before maghrib when the family would sit together around a table waiting for the Ramadan cannon to fire and announce the end of the day’s fast. “It is the little joys that fill the biggest space in our hearts,” he says.
Even after living in the UAE for 18 years, Egyptian expat Yasser Bahaa, who is an NLP and emotional intelligence coach, business excellence expert and trainer, says he has worked to consciously weave traditions of his own culture into the fabric of Ramadan rituals in the UAE. “Gathering with friends and families for iftar was not possible last year, but we made the best of what we had,” says Bahaa. “We grew closer as a family and performed prayers at home together. The joy and blessings we experienced is something that I’m carrying forward this year.”
We grew closer as a family and performed prayers at home together. The joy and blessings we experienced is something that I’m carrying forward this year.
While Bahaa visits the mosque for taraweeh with his son, he does the tawajud prayers at home with his wife and daughters.
Another practice that they follow is ending the fast with water and dates, followed by maghrib prayers and iftar.
“This ensures that we prioritise prayers and offer them on time,” says Bahaa. “Experiencing Ramadan together as a family during lockdown gave us many opportunities to learn and devise our own strategies to maximise lessons from our deen.
“We would each read a page of the Quran after every prayer and were able to finish one juz everyday together. This is also something we are doing this year.”
Sharing and caring
Ramadan in 2020 was surely one of a kind. While some of us had the warmth of families to share our blessings with, others were not so fortunate.
Indian expat Juhi Yasmeen Khan, a CSR and charity initiative expert and consultant in the UAE, has been working behind the scenes to support individuals, who have lost their jobs to the pandemic, had pay cuts and other challenges.
My family and I do our best to work closely with charity initiatives so that we can distribute food, gifts and some hope to the lesser fortunate. I have been on this journey for more than 22 years and one of my most favourite events to organise in Ramadan was the iftar for families with children with special needs.
“Ramadan is all about sharing and caring, especially for those unable to earn well,” she says. “My family and I do our best to work closely with charity initiatives so that we can distribute food, gifts and some hope to the lesser fortunate. I have been on this journey for more than 22 years and one of my most favourite events to organise in Ramadan was the iftar for families with children with special needs.”
Khan seeks to host these children and their families in a comfortable and safe space where they can share their joys, their laugher and even their challenges. “Unfortunately, I was unable to host last year due to restrictions,” she says. “However the contributions continued and we shared gifts and joy on a personal basis. It is the will to do good that needs to seed in our hearts – nothing can stop us from serving our communities.”
The bliss of learning
Hamis Mukuye, a salesman, agrees that when the intention to do good and serve exists then the ways to be of service show up on its own. “I reverted to Islam in the Ramadan of 2019 and experienced the bliss of learning and growing with the community,” says the Ugandan expat. “In order to give back I registered as a volunteer at the Islamic Information Centre and got approved. However, due to lockdown and social distancing I felt challenged. I did not give up hope and persevered. Soon I began to get support from IIC and my intention began to take shape.”
I reverted to Islam in the Ramadan of 2019 and experienced the bliss of learning and growing with the community.
Mukuye says the greatest lesson that he learnt was that the feeling of scarcity only invites more scarcity, whereas staying in faith and sticking to Allah’s promise of abundance will help everything unfold accordingly.
“My country is not a Muslim nation, but we are free to practise Islam,” he says. “The mosques are small and often open only for Friday prayers. It is hard to spread the joy and word of blessings, but we do the best with what we have and the rest we leave to Allah so that he may sustain us and always keep us safe in our faith and our well-being.”