Eid Al Adha


It is Eid again, a time to celebrate! Eid means festivity or celebration in Arabic. Eid Al Adha means the Festival of the Sacrifice. It is an Islamic festivity observed by Muslims around the world, which commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham (Peace Be Upon Him) to follow God’s command to sacrifice his son. Eid Al-Adha also marks the end of the Hajj which means pilgrimage.

Hajj is Muslims annual pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca, and the fifth pillar of Islam. All Muslims who are physically and financially able have to perform this pillar at least once in their lifetime. Millions of Muslims from different parts of the world travel to the Islam’s Holiest city of Mecca to visit the Kaa’ba. The Kaa’ba is the first house of worship ever built by the first mankind, Prophet Adam (PBUH), which was rebuilt by Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and his son.

2245464943_8b056de8d2_bThe Hajj is a ritual that commemorates the trials and tribulations of Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and his family, during which pilgrims follow their footsteps. It is perceived as a journey of the body, mind and soul. A time for spiritual connection, asking for forgiveness, a reflection of one’s life and a remembrance of mortality and the Day of Judgment. Hajj takes place during the month of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. It officially starts on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah and lasts for five days.

During Hajj all Muslims are equal and united regardless of colour, ethnicity, gender, language or status. This is reflected by the pilgrim’s dress, which is aimed to show equality and modesty. Men wear two pieces of unstitched white cloth, while women wear simple long and loose garments covering their body showing only their face and hands, therefore not reflecting any wealth.

During the first day of Eid Al Adha Festivities, Muslims dress in new clothes and go to the Mosque for the congregational Eid prayer in the morning. Afterwards they go to the slaughterhouse where the sacrifice is made to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s (PBUH) example of obedience. The meat of the slaughtered sheep is divided into three, a third for the poor, a third to friends and neighbours and a third for the family’s consumption. The rest of the day is spent visiting family, friends and neighbours, gathering to share meals and gifts. The three days of Eid are a time of celebration, generosity and joy.

It is a courtesy to greet your Muslim friend or neighbour by saying Eid Mubarak, which means Blessed Eid.

To understand more about Islam’s 5 pillars you can join our guided visit to the Jumeirah Mosque during the Eid or anytime throughout the year.
jumeirah-mosque

 

 

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Emirati Machboos Recipe


Machboos is one of the most popular Emirati dishes.  It consists of rice and can be made with chicken, lamb, or seafood. We serve it daily in our cultural meals. Many of our guests enjoyed it and requested the recipe, which we are happy to share with you. Recipes can vary from one household to another, as each one adds their personal touch to it, so this is our version.

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INGREDIENTS

  • I Kg chicken, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 Kg white basmati rice
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 fresh tomatoes chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 table spoons chopped coriander
  • 1 potatoe chopped into square pieces
  • 2 14cups water

spices:

  • 1 tablespoon bezar (mixed spice)*
  • sea salt (as desired)
  • 1 whole dried lime (pierced a few times with a skewer. Called loomi)
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 tablespoons Ghee
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 4 whole cardamom pods, bruised
  • 2 tsp saffron, soaked in lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse the chicken and rub it with sea salt and bezar*, then brown it gently on both sides with some ghee.
  2. Transfer to a pot, add some ghee, fry the garlic, tomato, loomi, cinnamon, cardamom and coriander.
  3. Add the potatoes, cover and simmer in low heat for 15 minutes..
  4. Remove chicken pieces from the pot.
  5. Rinse the white Basmati rice until the water runs clear.
  6. Add rice to the pot and stir gently, then set the chicken on top of the rice.
  7. Add the water until it covers the chicken and bring to a boil.
  8. Sprinkle the saffron mix, cover the pot and reduce heat to low for 15 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile fry slices of onion in the remaining ghee until soft and browned, remove from heat and add raisins to the onions.
  10. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot on a platter with the onion/raisin mixture as garnish on top of the rice. You can also add boiled eggs for decoration.

And bil afia, which means in good health, the Arabic way of saying bon appetite.

Follow our blog for other recipes coming up soon. We previously shared the recipe for the Ligamat.

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The Muslim Call to Prayer and Its Meaning


The call for prayer, in Arabic called Adhan, is that melodic chant you often heard coming from the mosque, while walking down the street in an Islamic country, in the mall in the UAE or in parts of a movie. Have you ever wondered what it means? The phrases used in the call for prayer are the same since the time of Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him), 1400 years ago. It is heard five times a day, seven days a week and throughout the whole year. Here is what it means:

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akabar, Allahu Akbar: God is the greatest, God is the greatest, God is the greatest, God is the greatest.

Allah is the Arabic word for God. ” Throughout their day and in prayer especially, Muslims use this term to remind themselves that God is greater than anything and everything. The creator is beyond time, direction and description. This phrase is not only used in worship, it is used to express appreciation, admiration, amazement, astonishment, fear or surprise. Unfortunately, lately it has been misused and abused. Princess Ameera Al-Taweel explains it beautifully in this video.

 

Ashhad an la illaha illa Allah, Ashhad an la illaha illa Allah: I testify that there is no God except God, I testify that there is no God except God. Muslims believe that there is only God and He is the Almighty, the Creator of everything and is the only one worthy of worship.

Ashhadu an Mohammad rasul Allah, Ashhadu an Mohammad rasul Allah: I testify that Mohammad is the messenger of God, I testify that Mohammed is the messenger of God. Muslims believe that God sent several messengers throughout time, with the same message for all mankind and Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him) is the last of these messengers. Hence, Muslims believe in all the prophets and messengers that preceded Prophet Mohammed, starting with Prophet Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc. (Peace Be Upon them All). Muslims also believe in all the holy revelations and scriptures that were sent with them, such as Prophet Abraham’s scriptures, the Zabur of Prophet David, the original Torah of Prophet Moses and the original Gospel of Prophet Jesus.

Haya alla el salah, Haya alla el salah: Welcome to prayer, welcome to prayer. The call for prayer is an invitation for Muslims to perform their prayer, spiritually connect with the Creator and disconnect from any worldly matters. It is a chance to thank God for his blessing, ask for forgiveness for any wrong doing and seek guidance throughout the day. Prayer is the moral compass for Muslims. If performed correctly and sincerely, it promotes God consciousness within them and makes them reflect on their actions from one prayer to the next and it also teaches discipline.

Haya alla el falah, haya alla el falah: Welcome to success, welcome to success. Success here is not measured by material gains or possessions but by good actions, which the prayer helps pursue.

La illaha illa Allah: There is no God worthy of worship except God

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar: God is the greatest, God is the greatest.

In the Dawn prayer a phrase is added after “welcome to success”, which is “Paryer is better than sleep, prayer is better than sleep”. As the dawn prayer is usually an hour before sunrise, this phrase is a reminder to worshippers that prayer should be a priority over comfort or anything else.

 

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Top 10 Phrases Heard in Ramadan


If you are visiting the United Arab Emirates this month, you will probably notice there is something different going on. Well, it happens to be the month of Ramadan! There are some common words and phrases in Arabic that are often used during this month that you might hear, so we made this mini glossary to explain their meanings.

Ramadan Kareem: You probably heard this being said a lot this month. It literally means, “Ramadan is generous”. The Holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Lunar Calendar, which Muslims follow. It is the month in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) and in which Muslims are ordered to fast from dawn to dusk. It is a month of spirituality and reflection. During the month Muslims increase their prayers, read more Quran, guard their actions, gaze, and speech and improve their mannerisms. They also tend to do more acts of kindness and give out more charity and hence Ramadan is known to be the month of giving and generosity.

Ramadan Kareem

 

Iftar: Literally means “break fast”. It is the meal that Muslims eat at the Sunset prayer, which breaks their fast during the month of Ramadan, marking the end of the day of fasting.

Suhur: Is derived from the Arabic word Sahar which is the later part of the night. It is the pre-dawn meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting during the month of Ramadan. The suhur meal is eaten before the Fajr (dawn) prayer, which is an hour before sunrise.

Alsalam Alaykom: Is an Arabic greeting, which translates to “peace be upon you.” It is a greeting that predates Islam and was very common in Arabia. When you meet someone for the first time you greet them by saying “Alsalam Alaykom” offering them peace, extending friendship and hospitality. It is not related to a specific religion and can be said by anyone.

Maghreb: Means sunset and usually refers to the sunset prayer. In Ramadan this is the time in which Muslims break their fast, ending their day of fasting.

Fajr: Meaning dawn, which is an hour before sunrise, and also refers to the dawn prayer. This is the time in Ramadan which marks the beginning of the fasting day.

Allahu Akbar: Means God is the greatest. Allah is the Arabic word for God, which is similar to the word in Hebrew Elohim and in biblical Aramaic Ellah. This is the first phrase in the call for prayer.

Bism’ellah / Bism’ellah el Rahman el Rahim: Translates to “In the name of God / In the name of God the most merciful the most compassionate.” It is a phrase that Muslims say in the beginning of any daily activity that they do, before performing the Wudu, the abolition (washing ritual prior to praying), before reading any chapters of the Quran, before eating any meal, before traveling on any mode of transportation…etc

Alhamdu’llilah / Alhamdulillah Rab el Alameen: Thank God/ Thank God, Lord of the Universe is what this phrase means. Muslims usually say it at the end of a meal to express gratitude of the blessing they had. It is also said when asked about one’s wellbeing, “how are you” keif halak (m) or keif halek (f).

Eid Mubarak: Eid means festivity and Mubarak means blessed. Together it means blessed festivity, which is usually said as a greeting to mark the end of the month of Ramadan and the 3-day celebration that follows. It is also used to rejoice the end of the Pilgrimage season (Hajj) which ends with a 3-day celebration as well.

eid-fitr-mubarak-cards

We at SMCCU wish you a blessed and peaceful month. We hope you join us to one of our Iftars throughout the month of Ramadan and wish you and your families a Happy and blessed Eid ahead.

Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding offers Arabic courses for week days or weekends. Our next classes are scheduled to begin in July 2016.
Click here for more information

 

 

 

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The Fuala


Al Fuala, is a beautiful Emirati habit that has been abandoned by some Emirati.  It consists of coffee, tea, a simple spread of traditional dishes and an assortment of fruits. The Fuala represent the authentic generosity of greeting family, neighbours and guests. It is also an incentive for them to regularly communicate and exchange visits in a family atmosphere.

 

The term “Fuala”, derives from the Arabic word “good omen” and this is exactly what it represents, as local traditional dishes, such as Aseed (porridge), Khabeesah (pumpkin mash), Balalit (Emirati pancakes), Lugaymat (dumplings served with date syrup), fruits among others are offered to guests whether they are friends, neighbours, or just merely any passersby. It is usually served before noon or in the  afternoon.

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Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) strives to remove barriers and build cross-cultural understanding by raising awareness of the local culture, customs and religion. In its aim to preserve the traditional costumes and traditions of the United Arab Emirates, it has brought this Emirati tradition of serving Fuala back to life by adding it to its various activities and programs. It wishes to offer all its visitors, tourists, expats, diplomatic missions and corporations this unique cultural experience.

 

On Thursday afternoon, May 19th 2016, SMCCU launched its first Fuala by inviting some guests to share this genuine and traditional experience in a restored home in Al Fahdi historical district. The guests were greeted with Arabic coffee and dates while they were seated in the courtyard and were entertained by a group of Emirati young men who performed the traditional Zafra dance. Mr. Abdullah Al Serkal, SMCCU’s Founder and Director welcomed the guests and explained the tradition of the Foala and its significance to Emirati families. The guests were invited to savor the local food and fruits and encouraged to ask any questions. Guests had the opportunity to inquire about the local men and women’s dress, some even tried them on while their photos were taken, while others inquired about various local habits.

 

 

The Fuala program is now added to SMCCU’s various activities, offering its visitors another opportunity to experience genuine Emirati hospitality in a friendly atmosphere. It includes a talk and visit in the Diwan Mosque followed by a relaxing discussion in SMCCU’s courtyard. It runs every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday form 4:30 to 6:00 pm and prior reservations are essential.

 

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Kharareef Writing Contest Opens for Submissions February 19th


The SMCCU has partnered with ZUKharareef Story Telling Club and Sheikha AlYazia bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan’s ZOWD Foundation for the First Annual New Fairytales & Fables from the UAE Writing Competition. Last November, the contest idea won in the heritage category of the ZU Innovation Awards, and is the brainchild of ZUKharareef  Club President Noor Abdul Hamaid.  The SMCCU  has provided its expertise to the implementation strategy of the contest, and  details of the competition  and school  registration can be found on our website at www.cultures.ae/index.php/writing-contest . The contest is  meant to celebrate the art of storytelling within the Emirati local traditions and our participation and support in this cultural literacy project and reading initiative are part  The Mohammed bin Rashid Global Initiatives, and the Year of Reading Project.

The concept of the contest is meant to connect our educational communities, celebrate Emirati heritage and culture, and contribute to HH Sheikh Mohammed’s efforts to encourage reading and writing in Arabic.  Students will be asked to compose their own “fairytales and fables” less than 500 words, in Arabic or English, that reflect the 40 themes chosen by the contest organizers.  These themes will focus on Emirati values and character traits, encourage  these values and/ or discourage values and behaviors inconsistent with Emirati culture. The competition will be held for grades 7-12 with groupings in English for grades 7-9 and 10-12 and the same categories will apply in Arabic.    Schools are required to host an internal competition and we encourage them to include all their grades in that process. Topics and themes will be announced on  February 19th, 2016, the opening day of the contest and submission deadline is March 19th, 2016 which coincides with World Story Telling Day 2016.

Winners will have their story illustrated and published in a short story book.

From the story Mile, a collection of short stories written by students at Zayed University

“Aiisha and the Gaf Tree”, a collection of short stories written by students at Zayed University

 

 

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Mouloud – The Commemoration of the Day of Birth of Prophet Mohammed’s 2015


Muslims around the world mark this Thursday, December 24th, the birth of the prophet Muhammed, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH), the last prophet of God who spread the message of Islam. He was born on Monday, 12 or 17th Rabi’ Al-Awal, in the Islamic calendar, in the year 570 in the Gregorian calendar, in the town of Mecca, which is in now Saudi Arabia. His name derives from the Arabic verb ‘hamada’, meaning ‘to praise, to glorify’. Prophet Muhammed was an orphan whose father ‘Abdallah’ died before he was born and his mother ‘Amina’ died when he was only 6 years old. He was raised by his Grand father ‘Abdul Multalib’ and later by his uncle ‘Abu Talib.’  He was known across Mecca for his kindness of heart, correctness of manners and purity of morals. At the age of 40 he received the revelation from God on the mount of Hira, through the Angel Gabriel and spent the rest of his life uniting mankind together for the purpose of worshipping the One God of Adam and all the other prophets, peace be upon them all.

During his 60 years of life prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught several important principles and morals, and even set forth rules for combat. He taught Muslims that all humans are equal regardless of their race, color and nationality. Moreover he instructed them not to hurt, hate, transgress against, put down or despise others. He was not only a prophet and messenger of God, but a social reformer, a moral guide, a statesman, a faithful friend, a devoted husband and a loving father. Therefore, he is considered the best example of behavior for Muslims, and according to the Quran, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the most excellent example for all of humanity. He was sent as a mercy to all mankind, he said:

The compassionate one (God) has mercy on those who are merciful, if you show mercy to those on earth, He Who is in heaven will show mercy to you

Even non-Muslim historians recognize him to as one of the most successful personalities in history. His complete biography has been authenticated and circulated amongst scholars around the world.

Here is some of what these scholars said about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), amongst them Michael H. Hart author of the book “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History” New York: Hart Publishing Company, Inc. 1978, p. 33, who said

My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular level.

This is what Karen Armstrong, best-selling British author said about the compassion of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

In his 23 years of prophethood he transformed the Arab peninsula form paganism to the worship of one God; from tribal wars to solidarity and cohesion; from moral bankruptcy and lawlessness to the highest standard of moral excellence and disciplined living.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who spent his life spreading the message of Islam and peace, left us with these important words in his last sermon before his death, in the year 632 in Medina also in Saudi Arabia, reminding us to live in peace and good relations with God, oneself and others:

O People, listen to me in earnest, worship ALLAH, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.

All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action…

Remember, one day you will appear before ALLAH and answer your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

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