Being a non-Muslim British Mum in Dubai during Ramadan can seem daunting but here is a guide to help see you through the holy month of Ramadan and enjoy it! Non-Muslims or tourists are not expected to participate during this time but you need to be aware of the rules so you can enjoy Ramadan respectfully.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a holy month, and is observed worldwide as a month of fasting. Considered a must for all Muslims, they must fast from dawn till sunset, where no food or water must pass their lips in this time. Fasting starts at the first prayer of the day at dawn (Fajr) and ends at the dusk prayer (Maghrib).
It is a month of sacrifice and spiritual discipline and in turn, provides clarity and brings Muslims closer to Allah as it allows them to understand sustenance. During this time Muslims experience hunger and thirst, making their appreciation of all that they have far greater. It allows Muslims to be more mindful of those who are less fortunate and in turn shows dedication and sacrifice to their beliefs, along with their generosity and sympathy for others.
When the fast is broken at sunset, an Iftar is the first meal that is eaten, it is more of a snack or light meal (Iftar means ‘break the fast’), and once evening prayers are done families and communities gather around and enjoy their evening meals collectively. It is not only about food but about reflection and taking part in collective prayers. A time of reflection and spirituality, Ramadan is a joyous occasion.
It can sound intense, but Ramadan is actually a time of celebration and brings families and communities closer together through food and prayer. At the end of the fasting month, there is a three-day-long celebration called Eid Al-Fitr, or the Festival of Breaking of the Fast. It’s a key celebration for families and similarly to Christmas for us non-Muslim British mums, there is a religious element, but there’s also lots of food, presents, and family time. Again, depending on the crescent moon timings, the Eid-Al-Fitr celebration could last up to five days!
Families and communities spend a lot of quality time together during Ramadan and will spend more time at their mosques, especially here in Dubai. Mosques will provide additional late evening prayers called Taraweeh and prayers after midnight in the last 10 days called Qiyam-ul-Layl. A time for bonding, many friends, families, and neighbours all collectively meet during this time, particularly at their local mosques.
WHAT ARE THE 5 PILLARS OF ISLAM?
Ramadan, is considered one of the 5 pillars of Islam. But what are the 5 pillars of Islam? They are 5 key practices that Muslims are obligated to fulfill throughout their lifetime. They’re known as pillars of Islam as they’re fundamental to Muslim beliefs and life. These 5 pillars are faith, prayer, charitable giving, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca along with fasting of course.
Fasting during Ramadan means from dawn till sunset, no drinking of water, no eating of food, no smoking not even chewing gum is allowed! It’s also a time for Muslims to reflect and try to change certain habits and cut things out (similar in a way, to giving things up for Lent), some may cut out watching tv, listening to music, swearing, etc and choose better habits such as reading sections of the Quran (the holy book of Islam) to help shape them for the better during this time.
RAMADAN DATES FOR 2023
For Ramadan this year in Dubai starts on the evening of Tuesday 21st March and is expected to end on the evening of Thursday 20th April, however, this could change as it’s depending on the moon cycles.
WHAT IS ALLOWED DURING RAMADAN IF I’M NOT MUSLIM?
Being a non-Muslim British mum in Dubai, it’s always best to be aware of what you can and can’t do during Ramadan. It is illegal to eat and drink in public places during Ramadan. There are private areas in malls that are where you should go to eat and drink whilst out and about. Although officially it’s not allowed, in the UAE many will turn a blind eye to young children eating and drinking in public – especially water on those hot days. You also shouldn’t smoke in public either throughout fasting times, again if out you should find a private area to smoke. If you’re breastfeeding, this is absolutely fine to continue doing in public during Ramadan as long as you’re respectful.
Restaurants, cafes, and anywhere with a license in Dubai will still be able to provide food and drink during this time for tourists and non-fasting residents. Officially you are allowed to eat or drink in your car and we always have water just in case of any delays, but again, it’s about being respectful.
Music, either loud or live music must not be heard during Ramadan so you may find places are a little quieter than normal too. Some Muslims prefer not to listen to music at all during this time, which is why there is a limit on sound. So again, if you’re listening to music in your own car, please make sure it’s not too loud.
ARE THERE ANY EXEMPTIONS FOR FASTING?
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or even menstruating you are exempt from fasting. Children, the elderly, and those physically and mentally not capable of fasting are exempt too. This means if you are exempt, you are able to drink or eat in public however it is best to be respectful when you are doing so!
HOW CAN I SHOW SUPPORT TO MUSLIM FRIENDS DURING RAMADAN?
First of all, it’s best to educate yourself on Ramadan (like you’re doing now!) so when your Muslim friends, neighbours, co-workers explain their routine, you have a better appreciation of the practice.
Greeting Muslims with “Ramadan Mubarak” and/or “Ramadan Kareem” is a great way to show support, as this translates to wishing someone a blessed or generous Ramadan.
You may get invited to an Iftar as a non-Muslim and if you wish to take a gift, a dish of some sort, Arabic sweets, desserts, or dates are always very well received!
Buying presents for the Eid celebration is always a great idea to show your support to your Muslim friends! But what do you buy? Anything picnic-related is always appreciated as picnics are very popular in Muslim life, homeware such as blankets, throws, candles, or home fragrances are again very popular. Food items such as baklava, dates, dried fruit, and chocolate are a good choice, flavoured teas or coffee are another great gift idea too!
Overall, it is a time to be respectful, especially for non-Muslims living in a Muslim country. A time of reflection, Ramadan is a great opportunity for us all to appreciate what we have and give to those who are less fortunate than us. During the Holy Month, there are plenty of opportunities to donate food items, care bundles, and other items to those in need.
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