However you mark the Islamic Holy Month, whether you’re Muslim or non-Muslim, one of the key themes is restraint.
Ramadan does not and should not mean a suspension in business dealings, but as a Muslim myself, it can sometimes be hard to tally up the message of the month with the actions on the ground.
Taking a step back, however, you can see some of the difficulties Dubai must face each year.
For one, how does it balance its status as an Islamic state with the accommodation of huge numbers of expat workers from across the globe who fuel the economy and come from a variety of religious, or non-religious backgrounds?
How does it continue its ambitious expansion plans (especially with Expo 2020 on the horizon) while giving the month special significance for Muslims, helping them see and feel the blessings associated with it?
It must be like walking a tightrope at times.
On closer inspection, however, there is a lot going on to prove that the spirit of Ramadan is alive and well throughout Dubai.
Numerous corporates, as well as SMEs and even start-ups have launched Ramadan campaigns and projects, while more than $27m has been donated to the UAE’s Water Aid campaign which aims to provide clean drinking water to 352,000 people in developing countries.
Charity Adopt-a-Camp’s annual – and extremely popular – Care Package appeal has been replaced with Project Wishlist for 2014, giving labourers the opportunity to make a wish during Ramadan, and giving the public the chance to help fulfil them.
There is also a lot going on behind the scenes.
In the Islamic tradition, acts of charity are deemed even more blessed for the giver if they are performed privately, without being made known to many people. I like to think that on top of what we can all see taking place, there are countless more charitable deeds taking place which we’ll never know about.
Around the mosques, labour sites and poorer areas of Mirdif, where I live, it’s not uncommon to see wealthy-looking people pull up in their luxury cars to distribute cases of water and dates to those in need. Small acts which carry huge significance.
Charity aside, Dubai also gives you pretty good opportunities to receive a spiritual uplift.
The reduced working hours provide ample time for important things such as time with family, food preparation, recitation of the Qur’an, and sleep.
And mosques across the emirate are full every night for Tarawih (extra prayers performed in addition to the compulsory prayers during Ramadan), helping to enhance the beauty of the month, and give an extra layer of community.
Withdraw yourself from the brash, bright, and bold Dubai that we see in its megaprojects, world records and lavish malls, and it’s clear to see that Ramadan spirit is as rich here as anywhere else.
But my real question is what happens when the month ends and Eid celebrations are at a close?
Will that Ramadan spirit prevail?
One of the simplest and most important things I’ve been told since becoming a Muslim is that Ramadan shouldn’t be an isolated month – a book-ended period of good-will and spirituality. It should be a reminder of how we should be, and act, throughout the year.
Whatever Ramadan means to you, be it charity, kindness, restraint, modesty, or anything else, it should help us press the reset button on our good intentions.