The holy month of Ramadan means something different for everyone. For most, it's a time of deep introspection, a time devoted to penance and prayer. Ramadan in Dubai has proven itself to be largely communal, with several iftars and suhoors being hosted everyday. This year, it's going to be different. We asked Dubai residents about how they're planning to observe Ramadan this year and what they are doing differently.
"Maybe for the first time around, we'll all collectively ask for just one thing - for the return to normalcy, for the safety of everyone in this world and for the welfare of humanity as a whole."
"This is a topic really close to my heart, and I have refrained from talking about this for so long in the hopes that if I don't, it'll probably not happen, but as we near the beginning of the Holy month of Ramadan, it seems more and more likely that we might have to continue practising social distancing and self-quarantine throughout the month, and possibly through Eid as well.
For some of us, Ramadan with social distancing and self-quarantine means no Iftar gatherings, no tents, no lavish buffets, but for most of us, it also means we don't get to go to the mosque to offer our prayers in the month that is considered the most holy and forgiving of all the months in an Islamic year. For as long as I can remember, I have never been wary of fasting. In the modern world people look at it as a great way to shed some weight, but if you dive deeper, you'll see how it truly creates a discipline of self-control, makes you more kind towards everyone around you, and gives you an opportunity to reflect on everything you are blessed with. We are facing an extraordinary situation this time around, and this year it is going to be even more important for us to practice all these disciplines.
Since I was a little girl, I have always been fond of this month. Since our faith allows it, all of us - men, women and children - go to the mosque for all 30 days of Ramadan to offer our prayers, recite the Quran, break our fast, and share a community meal at Iftar. Some even perform all the 5 prayers in the mosque, and additionally attend the special Ramadan night prayers as well. It is after all, a month of indulging in worship and asking for forgiveness for all the sins we have committed. For me personally, going to the mosque allows me to detach from the material world and lets my mind find the peace it cannot otherwise. It creates an atmosphere of tranquility, sobers my pride and helps me connect with my spiritual self. I also get to learn something new from the regular sermons, meet my fellow worshippers, and participate in charitable activities.
Preparing for this month has always been the most exciting thing of the year for me. People prepare their clothes for Eid, but I do that for the entire month of Ramadan as well. At one point I was so obsessed with perfection, I created an excel sheet with dates and corresponding clothes I would wear on each day so I could plan everything in advance. From matching my prayer mats and bags, to making sure I have all the essentials like prayer books, cup holder and hand wipes - all these made me look forward to this month with utter happiness in my heart."
"This year though, it might all have to be done from the confines of your home. It means praying at home and eating at home, while the mosques that are usually surrounded by the echoes of surahs and ikamats, stand empty. It means not being able to physically socialize with family, relatives and friends during the time of the year that we look most forward to doing these activities. And it means having to rely on technology to perform a lot of our everyday tasks during this month.
Despite the challenges, most of us are lucky to be living with our families here, no matter how big or nuclear they are. And it is really lucky because family members play an integral role in keeping the spirit of Ramadan alive by motivating and supporting one another during tough times, waking up for Suhoor together, praying throughout the day together, breaking the fast and having Iftar together and by just being there for each other. And then there are some of us who are not so lucky, for we stay alone in this home away from home. We don’t have our families living with us, which to be honest, makes it all the more difficult to sail through this month. Certain seasons, occasions or festivals tend to spark more memories than normal, leaving you feeling emptier inside, especially when you are not with your family members.
I miss those times my dad would wake me up after the Suhoor was ready on the table while he and mom would be up early cooking all the food, and all I had to do was eat it with my eyes half open. Or the times my mom would try a new recipe and serve it along with a cooling jar of gud paani in the evening at Iftar. And my family’s daily routine of going to the mosque every evening, me sitting next to my mom during prayers, and as childish as it might sound, sitting beside her was my dream come true. Something I always preferred over sitting next to a friend. I miss this every single year, but going to the mosque, or having an Iftar gathering with friends every other day makes it more bearable. After all, my friends out here are truly like my family. But this year I will be missing all this more than ever. Because there might not be any visits to the mosque, or Iftar potlucks at my home which I so excitedly look forward to every year.
However, we should be really thankful for the advancement in technology which is allowing us to have regular video calls with family and friends, and the fact that the authorities have made it so easily accessible to us. So regardless of what challenges life throws at us, let’s take a mutual decision to be a little more dedicated this year, put in a little extra effort in getting through the fasts, pray a little more than we usually do, donate a little more if we can, spend a little more time talking to family and friends, and be much more kind to everyone around us and far away. And maybe for the first time around, when we bow our heads in prayer, we won’t be asking for something for ourselves. And maybe for the first time around, we’ll all collectively ask for just one thing - for the return to normalcy, for the safety of everyone in this world and for the welfare of humanity as a whole."
No family and friends gatherings to look forward to.
"This year we are deprived of Taraweeh prayers with the strangers we grew fond of and look forward to seeing every year. No family and friends gatherings to look forward to. We can't exchange our meals with neighbours and loved ones which is the best part of Ramadan for me. Currently, we're trying to take cooking shifts to lessen the load on my mother. We took to dining in the front yard on Fridays and we have tea times every other day. We watch movies every night. We are now finding common grounds as we don't have mutual hobbies."
We can be positive and do our supplications in peace in the confines of our home and prepare simple meals for breaking fast.
It will be a whole new experience for me this Ramadan, being married and facing the current self-distancing situation. While we will not be able to visit mosques for night prayers and visit near and dears ones to share iftar, we can be positive and do our supplications in peace in the confines of our home and prepare simple meals for breaking fast.
This Ramadan, I will not have any iftars with my family.
"This Ramadan, I will not have any iftars with my family. I'm going to have to find a way to navigate the fact that I'm not being able to get groceries at the drop of a hat, but that's pretty much it."