x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Ask Ali: The significance of Ramadan

Ramadan seals your bond with yourself and others.

Dear Ali: Being a teacher in Abu Dhabi for the past three years, I have experienced many culture shocks when it comes to keeping control of the class. For instance, when I want to discipline a student for his behaviour, the whole face-saving issue rises. What do you suggest? WA, Abu Dhabi


Dear WA: It's true that we live in a culture where individuals don't appreciate being singled out or shouted at for bad behaviour. Saving face is crucial to us. But it is also true that pupils in most cultures would not appreciate their parents or teachers making them lose face in public. So when it comes to children behaving badly, my advice is not to single them out every time - but this is not to say that you should let them walk all over you. If you have to single one or two out for their bad behaviour, you should speak nicely and calmly ask the students to change their ways. Note the difference between: "Ali, don't throw paper", and "Ali, my dear, please keep still". It might even be better not to name the student, but rather say, "Guys, please keep your paper on your desk". As a general rule, I would say discipline in private and praise in public. However, I'm well aware that boys can be boys. The trick is not to single them out when applying discipline. Good luck.

Dear Ali: In your opinion what would be the most important and significant points of Ramadan? My Muslims colleagues always repeat the word "sacrifice", but I wonder if you could explain this in more detail. YG, Al Ain


Dear YG: This is a very good question so thank you for bringing it up. Ramadan is considered the fourth pillar of Islam and so it has, without a doubt, a major significance, not only for Muslims but also for society in general. It's also healthy to know that fasting is not a ritual that Islam invented but rather a continuation of other religions, such as Christianity and Judaism, that prescribed fasting to their followers as well.It's sad to see that many religious events around the world have now become commercialised. Ramadan still retains its intense spiritual meaning, even though in some parts of the world, aspects of commercialism have crept in.

Ramadan is a period of fasting, of testing your devotion, of reflection, generosity and sacrifice.The word "Ramadan" comes from the Arabic word for "ramad", which means dryness, heat and parched thirst. These expressions invite us to understand that this month won't be easy, but it will be a rewarding learning experience. For example, when you are fasting, you will experience hunger and thirst and sympathise with those who have little to eat every day. And when you show more devotion, you will get closer to God and start appreciating His creations more.

During Ramadan, families and communities come together and strengthen their bonds. A sense of charity increases, and people grow to feel more responsible and generous towards those who are in need, which is something that is good for every society. And we all know that during this Holy Month, Muslims try their best to let go of their bad habits and adopt good and positive mannerisms in the hopes of being better people. Also, when we fast we automatically establish a healthier lifestyle, particularly with regards to diet and smoking. Some manage to win this battle while others do not.

After reading all these points, I hope you will agree that the Holy Month of Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims all over the world. Of course, these great and positive values that we experience during this month should be adopted for the rest of the year as well, and I pray that all of us manage to do so. And this, by the way, is the real test of Ramadan: it presents a challenge to reset a person's soul, mind and heart to be better for the years to come.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow //www.ask-ali.com">www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.


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