x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The Holy Month away from home: diary

Everyday people's thoughts about Ramadan

Ramadan was always a month I looked forward to while growing up. It was a time when my uncles, aunts and cousins would gather at my grandmother's house to share a meal.

That meal, mind you, included 20 or more dishes and extended from one end of the living room to the other. They were either cooked in-house or sent to us by family and friends.

A floor mat used to be set up where we would sit, eat, laugh, connect and watch Ramadan programmes together.

I remember the first fast I observed, at the age of 8. It was a very exciting time for me, something new that I got to experience and share with the elders.

In my family, a child used to receive money when they observed their first fast, as a gift from the elders.

This motivated the child to not only fast but also get used to the concept at a young age. Therefore, I enthusiastically looked forward to my first day in order to receive that money.

I remember making almost Dh1,000 on my first day which, as you can imagine, was a lot of money in 1994 for an 8-year-old.

Eventually, as I grew older, I moved to the US for the completion of my studies. There, the observation of Ramadan was completely different to here, especially for an international student.

Every university that has an Islamic Society holds iftars for students on the weekdays but these meals are very different to the large ones I was used to.

There is no exchanging of food between homes, the food offered is very limited so as to accommodate all of the students, there are no special Ramadan programmes on TV and, last but not least, the connection with family members over a meal was non-existent.

Nevertheless, even when traditions differ among countries everyone still follows the same basic requirements of praying and fasting.

As a result, Ramadan is to me a combination of being able to spend quality time with family, reflecting on improving my inner self and, most importantly, dedicating my time to prayers to get closer to God and pave the path to a brighter future.

 

Fatema Kazim, 25, from Dubai, lives in Baltimore where she has completed her MBA at the University of Maryland