x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Muslim celebrities share what Ramadan means to them

Global and regional artists – from Yusuf Islam and Jermaine Jackson to Sumayyah Al Suwaidi and Jalal Luqman – reflect on the Holy Month.

Yusuf Islam:
Yusuf Islam: "It is important … that we remember how valuable charity and the inner aspects of the fast are." Photo by Aminah Islam

For many popular Muslim artists, Ramadan is an opportunity to step back from the limelight for some much-needed reflection. Saeed Saeed asks some global and regional stars reveal their thoughts on the Holy Month

Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens), singer-songwriter (UK)

"Fasting and staying away from food and drink is a choice we make, but while so many are suffering the pains of hunger and war, Ramadan is the best time to sympathise and give what we can to help awaken our humanity. Especially living in a place like Dubai, where I spend a lot of my time with my grandchildren these days, it is important with all the endless delights and metropolistic luxuries available that we remember how valuable charity and the inner aspects of the fast are. They constitute provision for the hereafter and we are not of this lower world - even if it boasts the tallest building."

Mohamed Rifi, The X Factor Arabia winner (Morocco)

"This Ramadan will be different than any other year. Last Ramadan, nobody knew me. Now when I walk out of my home in Morocco everybody says hello to me and this is a strange new feeling that I have to adjust to. I love Ramadan. It is truly a month of mercy and it really brings out the best in all of us. During the month I don't perform live concerts because it is a time for me to work on my self-development. It's a good opportunity to reflect on what has already been an amazing year."

Zain Bhikha, nasheed artist (South Africa)

"The month is truly a gift from Allah. For me it is a chance to take a step back and shed myself from worldly routines. I reflect a lot, and through prayer and reading the Quran I feel that my mind is very focused. It's about simplicity and letting go of the bad habits that set you back. You make a real conscious effort to do good deeds and become a better person. As I get older I appreciate it much more. I realise I need Ramadan."

Jalal Luqman, artist and curator (UAE)

"I slow down during Ramadan and I focus on developing the spiritual aspect of my character. The art world can sometimes be very harsh so the month is a chance to calm down and focus on what is truly important. People have New Year's resolutions and many Muslims use the holy month to kick-start their own goals. You think of others that are less fortunate and you do your best to repair relationships and give charity. It's not about being just a better Muslim but a better human being."

Jermaine Jackson, singer (US)

"It is important for me to pray, do my fast and fulfil my obligations in Islam and accepting God in my heart. It is also the most important time because we sacrifice some of our day-to-day things and think about those that are less fortunate. We fast but we also eat at iftar every day while other people don't have that luxury. So you think about those that don't have it easy - and by reflecting on that and giving charity, it brings you closer to God. I may be in the entertainment business but my religion comes first and everything else in second."

Maitha Alhameli, poet (UAE)

"This spiritual connectedness is felt not only in the home but all over the community. I use this time to study how I was in the last year, my positives and negatives, and look at ways to improve myself. I also do a lot of meals for the less fortunate during Ramadan. I make a very big pot of food and leave it at the mosque during iftar so others can eat from it. I do that for me. Helping others makes me feel good."

Sumayyah Al Suwaidi, artist and curator (UAE)

"Ramadan for me is about family time. It's a special month where we are all gathered together with our loved ones. It is also about giving and forgiving. You know, these are not easy things. Especially forgiving others who might have hurt us. But the month, because it is holy and there is a special spiritual feeling around it, makes it easier to achieve those hard tasks. Every Ramadan I organise the Ramadan Bazaar in Abu Dhabi. That is a chance to give back to the local artists by having their works showcased and hopefully sold to others."

Mourad Bouriki, The Voice winner (Morocco)

"During Ramadan I take a break from music. I love listening to nasheeds and spiritual material. I focus on spending time with my family and cherishing those relationships. I also try to get involved in humanitarian tasks in my city of Safi and perform nasheeds only. It's a blessed time full of goodness and I just hope that rubs off on all of us."

sasaeed@thenational.ae

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