The Multi-Cultured Ramadan

September 9, 2008

Dubai is a multi-cultured city, with people from almost all parts of the world. And so is Ramadan here. I think the only similarity between these people will be the dates they take when breaking the fast. Even prayers seem to be different, if you really want to find any difference in it. When I go for tharaweeh, Masha Allah, what lots of people are there! With so many types of dresses, so much languages and yeah, so many type of prayers. Until Ramdan, I went to the masjid by the Malayalees, and so I never came across such a variety except while performing Umrah in Masjid-al-Haram.

Well, there are the Africans, may be Sudanese with their long hijab (I don’t know what it is really called) reaching below their knees. They are so tall and I feel so small when I stand with them during the prayer. The masjid near to us has got the 23 raka’th tharaweeh prayer. The Africans usually pray all of the 23 raka’aths.

There are some UAE nationals too. They come up fully covered from head to toe, with only the eyes opening. Once inside the ladies’ only area, they remove their abaya and hijab – and beneath it, it will be dresses similar to the western styles, sleeveless T shirts, jeans pants reaching up to the knee, or long sleeveless/ full sleeve but see through frocks. And there will be all sorts of make up on their faces.

There are also some Pakistanis who come in their Salwar-Kamees, with an abaya on top. The difference with the Pakistani and South Indian dressing is that Pakistanis use the shawl of their Salwar-Kamees as the hijab, but in South India we use the black hijab of the abaya itself. North Indians also have a similar dressing to that of Pakistanis. Some Pakistanis also wear the Niqab, which is very very rare in South India. During the prayer, most of the Indians and Pakistanis stop at the 8th raka’ah, to be continued only during the last three of the remaining 15.

There is one woman who looks like a westerner, and speaks English. But there are so many who look like them and speak English like them. So I’m not sure. There are also other Middle East nationals coming from Lebanon and Iran. I love the way the Iranians dress – their long (????) I don’t know what it is called, a piece of cloth from head to toe which they wear while at prayer. After prayer they take it off, and beneath it they wear the usual dress – also my favorite, the topcoat and pants with a special type of hijab. I saw some Iranians keeping a piece of wood, round in shape, at the place where their head touches the floor while in Sujood. I don’t know why.

Some days I see some Mongolians too, I don’t know if they are from China, Japan or the –asian islands. They have long hijab, reaching up to their knee, and wear loose pants, made up of the same material used for the hijab, underneath.

The minor differences I find between the people are while standing for the takbir. Some tie their arms below the stomach, some on their stomach, some on their chest while some never tie it at all. Some of them tie their arm when standing straight after the rukoo’h. And while sitting for the ‘Aththahiyathu’ during the second raka’h, some people keep their fore finger straight all the time. Some open it at the ‘ashhadu alla ilaha illa allah…..’ and close it immediately after that. Some keep on pointing the forefinger till the end of the prayer, while some keep it opening and closing through out the sitting position.

I pray only 8 raka’aths, and then continue with the last three, so while waiting for the last three, I sit and watch all these differences between people. And the children, they also make a difference. While the Pakistani and Indian children are busy playing around while their moms are at prayer, the children of Middle East nationalities stand with their moms in prayer. May be the reason is, in India (I don’t know about Pakistan), the Imam and other people of the mosque discourage children in the masjid. So they never get a chance to learn the importance of masjid at the younger age. But in Middle East, it is entirely different. You can see children from 3+ months in the mosque. They get to learn the importance of prayer and masjid at a younger age.

About thte iftaar, I don’t know much about the food of other countries, because I have never gone for such an iftaar. Once I went to an iftaar by a UAE national. There were many dishes of which I didn’t even know the name. I recognized the haleem and custard. The main food was kabsa, and I loved it a lot. It was a dish prepared of raw rice.

So, Ramadan is fun, with this variety in the muslims. You can call it – unity in diversity

Please click on the title below to read about an incident in my life.

Friday Sermons and Muslims: Sr. Najeeba

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Did you say we are oppressed,

When in our veil, we are dressed?

When we cover ourselves from wandering eyes,

And keep our decency in front of guys,

You want to say that we are oppressed?

Women are oppressed, when you say,

I’m sure you are in ignorant way.

‘Coz my dad kisses me sweet, everyday

And say, ‘To paradise you are my way’,

For those who care for their little girls,

Allah assured them a heavenly home of pearls.

Yet you say, in Islam, we are oppressed,

When in decency we are dressed.

Who deserves the chocolate first,

If not his girls, and only then, the rest.

That’s how the Prophet did

First to the girls, and then the other kids.

But you look at our dresses

And decide, the women, Islam oppresses.

The paradise, to you, is not further

Than under the feet of your mother.

And straight to heaven, angels drag her

When in her delivery, death finds her.

Still you say, we are oppressed,

When women in Islam are greatly blessed.

Don’t you know in history, when women lead war,

And they traveled fearless, near and far.

It was Islam that gave them a dignified self,

And made her proud of herself.

But you shout women are oppressed,

When in truth, in Islam, women are blessed.