Dear Ali: It’s my first time in an Arab country during Ramadan, and I haven’t figured out if I’m allowed to eat during the day. Also, can I gather with other Muslims at a public dinner, even if I am not fasting? GJ, Ajman
Dear GJ: It is great when people who live with us in our country pay attention and respect traditions. Ramadan is a beautiful month, in which people enjoy doing everything together, such as fasting, gathering for prayer, inviting to and being invited for iftar to break the fast. Despite official regulations to close many restaurants across the country in the daytime during the holy month, non-fasting people are allowed to eat. In our religion, fasting is obligatory for all adult Muslims and those able to fast. Those who can’t fast due to health reasons, or because they are too young, are free from this obligation. After all, if fasting isn’t possible, it can be replaced with other good deeds, such as feeding poor people and distributing things to those in need.
So generally, yes, you can eat and drink during the day if you want to, but remember we expect those who don’t fast to avoid consuming food in public – as a matter of respect to this special month – whether they are Muslim or not.
You will also notice that all entertainment programmes are postponed until iftar, when people start breaking their fast, so playing music loudly in the house or car is not appreciated. Keep your plans for loud fun until after the sunset or, even better, after Ramadan.
By the way, you can feel free to attend public Ramadan iftar programmes. There are many places that offer delicious menus in a beautiful atmosphere, such as themed Ramadan tents.
Finally, I want to add that Ramadan is a family month for us, and if you don’t have anyone close here, let your Muslim colleagues know that you are interested to join them. Believe me, there won’t be a day when you will not be invited.
Dear Ali: Since Ramadan has started I have had people trying to approach me asking for money. It’s the first time that I’ve witnessed this here. Is it OK during Ramadan? Am I allowed to give them money? PK, Dubai
Dear PK: Ramadan is a special month, when Muslims give more to charity. Donating to charity is an important part of the fasting month. Just before Eid, we give a certain amount of our annual income to the poor. It is considered a must for those whose incomes exceed the basic necessities of housing, food and clothes.
Unfortunately, there are some people who use this month as an opportunity to earn unfaithfully. They come on the streets as beggars and approach fasting Muslims, relying on their kindness and readiness to do good things during Ramadan. However, they are often not poor. Our Government actively fights such fraudsters and urges people not to give to street beggars, but rather to donate to licensed charity organisations – which are dedicated to distributing help to the needy, not only in the country, but also globally – such as the Emirates Red Crescent.
The Ministry of Interior has a toll-free number, 800 2626, for those who notice fraudulent begging. If you feel that a person genuinely needs help, it’s advised that you don’t pay them directly, and instead send them to a local charity organisation, which is officially assigned to look out for such people.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.
Source: art & life