Tag Archives: Customs

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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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.
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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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Spirit of the Union 44th National Day Treasures of the UAE 2015 Art Competition Awards


In honor of the Spirit of the Union 44th National Day Celebration, the SMCCU honors the winners of the its 4th Annual Treasures of the UAE Art Competition.  Winners and their families attended a private viewing of the artwork that will be displayed in the SMCCU during the month of December 2015.  The awards ceremony followed and included a cultural program and lunch, a tour of the Al Fahidi historic district and Diwan Mosque, and awarding of prizes.  The winners took away a package of prizes worth 1000AED each, and their artwork is now featured in the 2016 Treasures of the UAE Calendar available at the SMCCU.  Each month two winners will be featured in the Hijri-Gregorian calendar.

This year more than 550 students entered the competition from 53 schools across the UAE.  Managing Director, Nasif Kayed hosted the event along with volunteers from the SMCCU.  “Our aim is to spotlight the many historic sites and monuments across the UAE in an effort to bring about knowledge and appreciation of  our rich culture and history.  It is also an opportunity for students to express their creative talents.”, said Mr. Kayed.

The Emirates Fine Arts Society once again graciously donated their time in choosing our winning artists, and Yas Water World, Nestle and Explorer generously sponsored the competition this year.

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SMCCU’s 4th Annual Treasures of the UAE Art Competition Judging


The Emirates Fine Arts Society members have been busy this week reviewing the more than 550 pieces of artwork received from 53 schools across the UAE.  IMG_5821This year we had entries from schools in Dubai as well as Abu Dhabi, Sharjah. Al Ain and Fujairah.  Students were asked to depict their favorite historic site, and submit their works for a change to win a place in our 2016 Treasures of the UAE Art Competition Calendar.  The calendar will feature 24 winners whose works will make up the 12 Gregorian and 12 Hijri months of the this Arabic/English calendar.  This year our sponsor, Yas Water World, Nestle, and Explorer have generously provided their support through prizes worth up to 1000AED for the winners.  Our Judges, Khalil Abdul Wahid, Curator of the 30th Annual exhibition of Emirates fine Arts Society 2012 at Sharjah Art Museum and Visual Arts Manager at  The Culture and Arts Authority, Muna AbdulQader AlAli, Member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society and Nasir A. Nasralla, Member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society generously donated their time to choosing our winners.  All winners and their families will be honored at the SMCCU’s National Day Celebrations in the Al Fahidi Historic District of Dubai on December 2nd,2015.    We’ve put together a Participants book, which can be viewed below.

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SMCCU’s Guide to Ramadan 2015


The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) has been at the forefront in promoting an authentic Jumeirah Mosque Eidunderstanding of the UAE and the region’s traditions and practices. The wealth of information that can be accessed here is to ensure that both Emiratis and expatriates are aware of and understand these traditions and practices, and the role they play in distinguishing the culture of the region.

A number of expatriates often express discomfort at having to conform to the guidelines that are in place for Ramadan. The UAE is a very tolerant country. Even if you experience challenges in understanding the culture, it is courteous and wise to observe and follow the laws that are in place. Keep in mind that you are in a Muslim country.

As the Holy month of Ramadan approaches, we have received numerous requests to remind our audience of what the Holy month of Ramadan means to Muslims, the ‘dos and don’ts’ and the activities that they can expect to see throughout this time.

Below are some guidelines that you can use to learn more about Ramadan.

The Holy Month of Ramadan

The Holy month of Ramadan begins on June 19 this year. While expatriates who have been living in the UAE or the region for a few
years have some insight into the significance of the month, there are some who are new to the region, and may not understand, or have their own questions about Ramadan, despite what they have been told.

Ramadan, or the Month of Fasting is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam. It is regarded as the holiest month in the Islam calendar because Muslims believe that the Qur’an (Koran) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during the month of Ramadan on the night of Laylat al Qadr (Laylat ul Qadr), one of the last ten nights of Ramadan. Ramadan ends on with the festival of Eid-ul Fitr – Day of celebration and gratitude.

A superficial observation that some persons tend to commonly share with those who do not know much about the holy month is that it is mainly a time of ‘not eating and drinking (fasting)’. However, there are many additional significant activities that encourage spiritual growth and allow for deeper reasons for what is done, when it is done and how it is done

Fasting

The act of fasting during the daylight hours is an essential spiritual act. The objective is to obtain God Consciousness. For Muslims, unnamed
abstaining from food and drink creates a deeper gratitude for these vital gifts without which we cannot survive but often take for granted. It is also a good reminder to all to not be wasteful. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), in admonishing us about fasting said, “… one third of your stomach is for food, one third for drink, and leave one third empty so it can do its work.” Fasting encourages us to exercise greater self-control, patience, perseverance and discipline.

Even though all Muslims are encouraged to fast daily, there are a few exceptions that you should keep in mind. Persons who are exempted from fasting include those who are travelling long distances, the elderly, the insane, women who are menstruating, pregnant women, nursing women, the sick, and children under the age of 12.

Spirituality     

Throughout the year, there may be instances in which our focus on spiritual growth may be minimised as a result of distractions. The Holy Month of Ramadan creates mindfulness of our shortcomings, as through reflection, we are able to strengthen the areas in which our faith may have weakened.

Between sunrise and sundown, sexual relations are forbidden. This is done in order to remind, and in some instances teach couples to appreciate and value each other more.

The holy book is also read daily and there is an increase in our prayers, particularly at night. We are more aware of how we behave and the manner in which we interact with each other. This means that undesirable behaviours such as being arrogant, vain, disrespectful or unkind are strictly forbidden. Gossiping and back stabbing are also forbidden during the process of fasting.

Zakat & Charity

Ramadan is a time in which a lot of emphasis is placed on charitable works. Special focus is given to helping those who are in need and looking after the poor.

Zakat Al Fitr is given at this time before the Eid prayer and equals 20AED per fasting person, as a token of thankfulness to God for having enabled him to observe fasts. Its purpose is to purify those who fast from any indecent act or speech and to help the poor and needy. It should not to be confused with Zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, an obligation for every Muslim that fits the criteria. It is a mandatory way of giving money with the purpose of redistributing wealth. Each Muslim is expected to give 2.5 per cent of the value of his capital assets. This is then distributed by various Islamic organizations to those who are less fortunate.

Fellowship, Family & Iftar   

During Ramadan, there is much social interaction between friends and family. Muslims are encouraged to visit friends and in Iftar foodparticular, those with whom contact has faded.

Those of you, who have experienced Ramadan in the UAE, can confirm that during the evening hours, just before Iftar, there is an overwhelming amount of traffic on the road. This is usually a result of persons trying to get to specific locations for Iftar. Iftar is the evening meal after sunset to break the daily fast during Ramadan.

Key points to remember

  • Respect the dress code – dress modestly. Both men and women should cover their shoulders and ensure that the length of their clothing is at about the knee line.
  • Be courteous – Do not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public or in the presence of those who are fasting. Be discreet with your eating and drinking. Many companies provide private rooms for those who are not fasting – use those areas to eat. Be especially discreet if you are in your car or in public areas.
  • Be Responsible – Do not play loud music, curse or behave in a manner that is considered disrespectful to others. Ramadan is a time of heightened spirituality. Be mindful of the needs of others.
  • Learn to greet others – Learn the appropriate way to greet others in Arabic during Ramadan and practice saying it to those you meet. ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ is a popular greeting said at the start of Ramadan. ‘Kareem’ means ‘generous’ and ‘Mubarak’ means ‘blessings.’ Other greetings include ‘Mubarak Alaikum Alshaher’ to which the response may be ‘Allah Yebarek Feek’.
  • Be Aware – The timing of business hours and bus routes change during Ramadan. Many shops and government agencies will post Ramadan timing, so be sure to check before you venture out. Peak hours have slight variations at this time too. Avoid going out on the road during the hours leading up to Iftar. Also of note, most companies are legally required to reduce working hours for all employees (Muslim and Non-Muslim).
  • Participate – Many hotels and restaurants have special Iftar deals but join Muslims for an authentic Iftar. Accept invitations from a Muslim work colleague or friend at his home for Iftar. You can also join a tent or a masjid Iftar feeding the poor, by handing out food and food items. Try an Iftar at SMCCU. We have special (bespoke) Iftar packages where you can enjoy authentic Emirati cuisine while learning more about Ramadan.

 

At SMCCU our goal is to empower everyone with the information that is needed in order to facilitate a better understanding of the UAE and the region. We are happy to answer any questions that you may have; so don’t be afraid to ask. Our doors are open to you and in the process of sharing; we hope to open your minds to who we are as a people, a country and a region.

In conclusion, the Holy month of Ramadan is a great time for us to grow spiritually, to celebrate the joys of sharing and to show appreciation for all the gifts that we are fortunate to have. Through an overall feeling of thoughtfulness and reflection, we are able to reconnect with Allah who reminds us of the importance of worship and fellowship.

To learn more about our Iftar packages, click here.

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