Dubai: When muezzins recited the adhan for maghrib prayer in mosques on Monday — the first day of Ramadan — the same call to prayer was heard at Dubai’s Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara.
While dozens of Sikhs enjoyed langar (free community meal) sitting on the floor of the community kitchen hall of the Sikh shrine, a group of Muslims ended their fast seated at tables on another side of the hall.
Bangladeshi Islamic scholar Hafeez Abdul Huq, who ended his fast with them, then led the prayer (salaat/namaz) in separately arranged areas for men and women in the same hall. He has agreed to lead the maghrib prayer throughout Ramadan.
Joining the Muslim expats, who were praying inside a place of worship belonging to another religion for the first time, was none other than the head priest of the Sikh shrine.
In the Year of Tolerance, the gurudwara is organising iftars at its premises throughout Ramadan.
The gurudwara, which provides free vegetarian meals three times a day to every visitor irrespective of their background, has been hosting an interfaith iftar during Ramadan for the past six years. However, this year, it was decided to host daily iftars apart from the interfaith iftar on May 15, according to Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of the gurudwara.
Though the primary aim was to cater to the Muslim workers in the locality, most of those who arrived on the first day of Ramadan were those who learnt about it from their friends or colleagues associated with the gurudwara.
Hailing from Karachi in Pakistan and Kerala in India, Awais Baig and Mohammad Sajeer had never stepped inside a place of worship belonging to any religion other than theirs.
Baig, a second chef at a Dubai hotel, was invited by his best friend and colleague Kuldeep Kumar when the latter saw a social media post about the iftar by the gurudwara.
“I am a Hindu, but I felt nice when I saw the post by the gurudwara about this iftar. I wanted Awais to visit the gurudwara and join this special iftar,” Kumar said.
Baig said he was touched by the friendliness of the people and the whole experience. “Indians here are very friendly. This experience has been very touching,” he said.
For Sajeer, a PRO who came with two of his roommates in Deira, it was also an occasion to learn more about another religion. “We went upstairs to see the shrine. It is marvellous. We really appreciate this gesture by the gurudwara to spread peaceful coexistence among people of different religions,” he said.
Syed Waqqas, another attendee, said this was an example that could be emulated by all places of worship to improve religious camaraderie.
“It will bring out a lot of harmony among different religions especially at this time when there is a lot of intolerance and hatred in the name of religion.”
Shaheena, one of the three female attendees, said she broke down when she heard the scholar leading the prayer. “It was unbelievable. It just showed that you can sit in any place and create your religion there.”
S.P. Singh, general manager of the gurudwara, said snacks, fruits, and juices were separately arranged for the iftar apart from the vegetarian langar meal which has six items. “We are spreading the word. We hope more people, especially workers, will join us for iftar in the coming days,” he said.