One of the things we offer at my company Embrace Arabia is a programme for expats that gives an authentic Ramadan experience. During this residential programme of two weeks, they have to follow the rules of the house: no food or water during the day, just as we do in the month of Ramadan. I began this programme about three Ramadans ago when some of my expat friends expressed an interest. Some saw it as an opportunity to understand our culture; others used it as a tool to discipline themselves. For some of the participants it was something of a Ramadan detox, a benefit that research has shown. It seems modern medicine is only now catching up to the holy Quran, which explained hundreds of years ago that if you fast for 30 days and eat a particular set of food items, you will see many benefits to your health.
Ramadan might symbolise the food tents to expats, but for Muslims it is a time for prayer and purification of the mind, spirit and body. Each prayer break takes us that much closer to almighty Allah and makes our faith stronger. From a very young age we are taught that, during the Holy Month of Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip; the eyes from looking at indecent things; the ears from listening to meaningless talk or obscene words. The hands must not touch anything that does not belong to them, and the feet must refrain from walking to sinful destinations. As each and every organ of the body observes restraint, it culminates in total commitment of the person's body and soul to the spirit of the fast. I like to think that Ramadan is a time to detox — physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally — in order to refocus on the worship of God.
The Holy Month of Ramadan is a time to rejoice. Although there is some solemnity attached to it, it is not one of sorrow or mournfulness or even laziness. We are very cheerful and active during this time. In fact, at the end of Ramadan a common form of greeting is a request to the Almighty that we may live long enough to spend another Ramadan together. Some people break down and cry at the end of Ramadan in sheer gratitude for the purification of their spirit. It is indeed a very special time for us.