Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
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By Iman Ben Chaibah
Ramadan is just around the corner; coming back to us on its yearly visit. Yet the visits are never quite the same. The traditions and habits change across the years, making it interesting to explore what has changed and what had stayed. So in this month’s issue, we will talk a little on how Ramadan has been, the history of fasting and more about Ramadan’s spirit and traditions.
The main aspect of this month for non-Muslims is the fasting; in which Muslims completely refrain from eating and drinking from the break of dawn (in which the meal prior to that is called sohoor) till sunset (in which the meal after it is called iftar). But in reality, it is more than just that.
This month brings with it spiritual change and boost. In this month we strengthen our bonds with God, self, and families. The month, in which we become humble, understand the suffering of the poor and needy, we start more charitable deeds and donate more generously. We start forgiving people around us in the spirit of Ramadan along with the Godly forgiveness we receive in this month.
It is the month of sharing, so you start seeing little kids running around the neighborhood minutes before sunset prayer time, to deliver the covered food plates their mothers sent through them to the neighbors. The month that you find the whole family gathering on one meal again, when modern life had differed the family members’ lunch times, leading some to have their lunch at work and some to have it at different timings at home.
This blessed month brings out the culinary skills in girls; they get creative in making dessert dishes to impress their families and the neighbors. The boys compete to head to taraweeh prayers (the special Ramadan prayers that comes after the ishaa prayers around 8.30pm). Families start to visit each other after taraweeh prayers and stay well into the night.
Also, during Ramadan, there is what we call “Mawaed Al Rahman”, which means the servings of the merciful. In which at the sunset prayer time, many volunteers bring in dates, water glasses, and cooked meals to the mosques; so that whoever is dropping by the mosque at that time can break their fast along with their prayers.
Its worth mentioning that fasting, though regulated on Muslims after 15 years from the start of Islam, it is not something new for humanity. Fasting was known in previous civilizations. It was also mandated in Judaism and Christianity. Aside of the mandated fasting, people used to fast for different reasons; to thank God for something or as a way to get closer to sincere faith by experiencing humbleness and conquer their humanly desires.
However, Islam added more to Ramadan than just fasting. God and his prophet Mohammed (PBUH) promised Muslims with a lot of things in Ramadan. Some of those promises are: whatever you do from worship in this blessed month, you will be rewarded generously. Fasting on its own adds to the balance of Muslims’ good deeds, but to add to that, a Muslim can gain double the good deeds just by inviting another Muslim for iftar. This encourages Muslims to invite each other over iftar and to donate iftar for the poor. This is also one of the main reasons behind “Mawaed Al Rahman” mentioned earlier.
However, sadly, some people misrepresent Ramadan by the way they respond to their fasting. You see them becoming short tempered, spend the day lazily, and refuse to be productive. This is a mere reflection of a person’s ability of self-discipline. History proves that in the prophet’s (PBUH) days, the main wars and battles were won during the month of Ramadan itself, for what internal strength fasting bring out. The process of fasting along with the spirit of Ramadan is claimed by Islamic scholars to stir constant thinking, more responsive memory, and makes work more efficient by eliminating a lot of distractions.
Lets embrace that spirit again, bring back some positive habits, and share with others our true culture to help them understand the beauty of this month.
May you all have a blessed Ramadan.
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