Our culture columnist fields questions about Sharia law, free housing for Emiratis and playing football during the Holy Month.
Ask Ali: Shariah law, free housing and Ramadan football
Dear Ali: Where does the UAE court system and Sharia come from? AA, Abu Dhabi
Dear AA: The UAE is an Islamic country but is very much open to all religions and faiths. All seven emirates have a Sharia court. Sharia law is a way of life; it comes without country borders and applies to Muslims where they live.
Before any court was established, they were known as tribunals and in 1969, prior to the formation of the UAE two years later, Abu Dhabi issued a law that set the standards for regulating courts. In 1973, the UAE established its Supreme Court. Our seven emirates maintain some autonomy from the federal court system, and local authorities can regulate matters within their own emirate. Sharia courts work alongside the civil and criminal courts in the UAE. The Sharia court is the Islamic court in the UAE and is primarily responsible for civil matters between Muslims. Non-Muslims will not appear before a Sharia court at any time. On another note, decisons reached by the Sharia court can be overturned by the Federal Supreme Court.
Dear Ali: I have heard that Emiratis are entitled to free housing. Is this true? Many of my Emirati friends are renting. MS, Abu Dhabi
Dear MS: The UAE government aims to ensure that Emiratis receive various benefits to which they are entitled. The country has grown so much, but it's not true to say that every Emirati owns a house. However, each Emirati may receive benefits that are administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (www.mol.gov.ae) in addition to the practical help offered by the network of ministry-supported social centres run by the General Women's Union (www.wu.gov.ae).
Today, we hear much of the many achievements of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, to ensure the comfort of his people. The Ministry of Public Works oversees housing programmes, but the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme is the main organisation to offer funding. It provides several services such as interest-free loans or grants for buying or building a new home or expanding an existing one. The scheme can also provide a house for Emiratis on low incomes. Only Emiratis who do not own a house for their families and have not received housing aid from any government authority for 15 years are eligible. The applicant must be the breadwinner of the family.
Dear Ali: Some of my Emirati friends keep trying to convince me that football is fun during Ramadan, but I have difficulty relating the two. They want me to join them but it's 45°C outside in Dubai. ML, Dubai
Dear ML: Even during Ramadan, we can still find time for football. As with any sport, it's important to drink a lot of water, but of course, during Ramadan, this isn't possible during the day for Muslims. However, we make sure that we start our games an hour or an hour and a half before the maghreb prayer, which means we head home just before the prayers begin. By the time we get there, we quickly shower, quench our thirst, pray and then dig in to our feast.
As for the connection between Ramadan and playing football, I believe team games can bring young and old people together in the neighbourhood for a fun evening match. Since you are in Dubai, check out the Ahdaaf website (www. ahdaaf.ae) for the indoor sporting facility in Al Quoz. Or, try the largest indoor sport facility in the region, Dubai Sports World in the Dubai World Trade Centre (www.dubaisportsworld.ae).