x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Thousands in UAE begin month of reflection with an early prayer

The call to prayer broke the tranquil silence before dawn this morning, ushering in the start of the hottest Ramadan in 33 years.

Muslims leave after morning prayers on the first day of the Holy month of Ramadan at the Al Haj Abdul Khaleq Abdulla Al Khoury Mosque in the Madinat Zayed, Abu Dhabi
Muslims leave after morning prayers on the first day of the Holy month of Ramadan at the Al Haj Abdul Khaleq Abdulla Al Khoury Mosque in the Madinat Zayed, Abu Dhabi

DUBAI // The call to prayer broke the silence before dawn today, ushering in the start of the hottest Ramadan in 33 years.

Some stayed awake throughout the night while others slept for a few hours before waking up for suhoor.

Worshippers gathered outside the mosque in the Madinat Zayed area of Abu Dhabi, including Ibrahim Khaleel, 28, an Emirati.

“I started fasting when I was only 10 and since I have never missed a single day during the month,” Ibrahim said. “I know weather conditions are challenging this year but pray to God to give us strength to fast for the whole month.”

Ramadan is divided into three parts. The first 10 days of the holy month are for seeking God’s mercy and sharing mercy with others. The next days are for forgiveness, and the third for salvation.

An excited Othman Hassan had just completed ablutions at a Dubai mosque for the morning prayers.

“This is my first Ramadan away from my family,” said Othman, 26, a baker from Alexandria who has been in the UAE for three months.

“They warned me about the heat, but I didn’t think it was this bad. I made sure to drink a lot of water with my suhoor.”

His work at the bakery will keep him busy from 5pm to 5am every day during the holy month.

“We get two hours off for prayers and iftar, but other than that it is just concentrating on the work,” Othman said. “I will just be thinking of my family back home, especially my eight-month-old son. That will help me get through anything.

“I’m happy that it is harder to fast here. The harder it is, the more reward you gain in God’s favour.”

On Tuesday night 7,000 people gathered for taraweeh at a mosque in Madinat Zayed.

Shahabuddin, from India, stayed awake the entire night to perform fajr on the first day of Ramadan. “I am going to observe fast for the whole month and exercise prayers five times. That’s going to continue until Eid,” he said.

“This is the month of blessing, so I want to garner the blessing of Allah as much I can.”

Habibi Abdur Rehman, from Indonesia, attended prayers with his young son.

“This is my first Ramadan here in Abu Dhabi as I arrived in April,” Habibi said. “I find the place very spiritual and many people come for prayers each time.

“I am enjoying the environment here as people here are very devoted to recitations and fasting.”

Amir Al Bizreh, 45, and his family were also excited to experience their first Ramadan in the UAE.

“Yesterday it was so hot as we did the last of our Ramadan shopping, I thought I was about to die,” the Syrian businessman said. “It will be interesting today. We’ll try to stay indoors as much as possible, I guess.”

Amir said UAE customs were different to those he was used to. “We were waiting to hear the sounds of the Emsaharati so we could know when to have suhoor.”

The Emsaharati is a young man or small group who walk around the neighbourhood banging drums and chanting, to remind people to take suhoor.

It was part of the culture in the UAE but stopped a few years ago as people moved away from the older neighbourhoods.

“We were also flipping through the local television channels looking for when they would announce the Imsak time to stop eating,” Amir said.

“This is commonly shown on local channels in Syria but all we found were movies.”

Amir’s family of five is living with his brother’s family of six in Dubai.

He recalled how children would be given coupons for going to prayers during Ramadan. “The children would collect the coupons throughout the month then exchange them for toys after Eid prayers.”

malkhan@thenational.ae

anwar@thenational.ae