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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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SMCCU Hosts Guests from around the Globe during Ramadan


The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding has been hosting guests during the month of Ramadan since 1998. The program began with the founder Abdullah Bin Eisa Al Serkal and other volunteers  who invited expats into their homes to experience Ramadan with the family.

Home Visit Ramadan 1998

Home Visit Ramadan 1998

In 1999, the SMCCU hosted its first Ramadan Tent at the Landmark Jumeirah Mosque During the month of Ramadan.

Ramadan Tent 1999 at the Jumeirah Mosque

Ramadan Tent 1999 at the Jumeirah Mosque

 

By 2004, the Iftar Events moved to our current home, an old wind tower house in the Al Fahidi Historic District of Dubai.

IfTar Event SMCCU Wind Tower House 2004

Iftar Event SMCCU Wind Tower House 2004

Throughout the years, visitor and residents, dignitaries, business groups  and social clubs have joined the 1000’s of individuals who have participated in these cultural and spiritual events.

The evening begins with the breaking of the fast, consisting of dates, water and  Arabic coffee,  followed by evening prayers performed in view of the guests. After prayers are concluded, guests are invited to enjoy the local Emirati dishes prepared such as Machboos, Saloona, Thareed, Margoogah, and salad.  After the meal, guests take a short walk through the district to the Diwan Mosque. Inside, the group learns about the house of worship, prayer, and why Ramadan is such a special month for worships. Event goers then return to the wind tower house where dessert is served, and an open Q & A discussion is run by young volunteers. It’s an opportunity for the guests to get to know local Emiratis, and hear their points of view on the city, the religion, growing up during the development of Dubai, and current affairs. The volunteers  will admit that they’re not experts on the subjects but are willing to share their views to give visitors a better insight into local culture traditions and religion.

This year the SMCCU is continuing its tradition of hosting guests in the Al Fahidi Historic District of Dubai for Iftar. Special guests in 2015  included the Consul General of Bulgaria, Bogdan Kolarov, guests of the British Embassy, Chancellor of Environmental Sciences at American University of Sharjah Bjorn Kjerfve,  Hong Kong celebrity Dodo Cheng, Mr David Chaplin, First Secretary at the Embassy of Australia, Ms Emma Buckingham,  Vice-Consul of Australia, Ms Kim Debenham, Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Australia.

The SMCCU’s mission is to promote cultural understanding and provide a venue where visitors and residents can come together in an informal open atmosphere and get to know a little more about the Emirates through the eyes of an Emirati.

To find out more, visit our website at http://www.cultures.ae.

 

 

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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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Ramadan Explained by SMCCU


The Holy Month of Ramadan, or the Month of Fasting is one of the five Acts of Worship in Islam.  More than that, it is a time for spiritual growth through self-control, discipline, and patience;  an exercise in controlling one’s desires and increasing one’s good works in the hope of forming a new balance in our lives that lasts far past Ramadan.  To the average observer Ramadan seems to be more about “not eating and drinking” than anything else. For Muslims, this act of abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours is the core of the worship, but certainly not the only spiritual act.  Self- reflection, controlling one’s bad habits, abstaining from lawful things, such as food and water help one to appreciate and value such great gifts without which we cannot survive. It teaches one to not be wasteful, “eat to live, not live to eat”.  The Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him said about eating and drinking “one third of your stomach is for food, one third for drink, and leave one third empty so it can do its work,”. During daylight hours one also abstains from lawful relations with one’s spouse, to teach one another to appreciation and value each other and to not take for granted the gifts that the Creator has given us in our lives, companions to find comfort in. On the other hand, abstaining from the unlawful in our actions and deeds, things such as arrogance, vanity, gossip and back stabbing, cursing, disrespecting one’s parents or those in authority are integral to the fasting process. The body, the eyes, the tongue and the ears, all acutely aware of the things we should avoid.    In effect it is an exercise to enhance one’s character from the inside out. Charitable works are emphasized as well as looking after the poor, and increasing our prayers, particularly at night.

In a city with more than 230 nationalities, cultures and religions, Ramadan may feel like a time when the city sleeps during the day and becomes alive at night.  Expats and visitors may be curious and cautious at the same time; why are most restaurants closed?  Are the beaches open? Malls? Are there special hours for supermarkets? Can I eat in public? Should I wear special clothes?

While most restaurants are closed during the day, Malls, supermarkets, and most establishments maintain daytime open hours with extended evening hours.  Employers follow the guidelines set up by the Federal Government and private sector companies are required to shorten working hours during Ramadan, and this applies to all employees, not just Muslims.

Eating brazenly in public could result in a ticket or a trip down to the police station so common sense applies. If you are in your car and need a drink, be discreet. It is simply a courtesy extended to fasting Muslims, and most visitors quickly catch on to the rules without a problem.  Are some Muslims exempt from fasting? Not all Muslims fast during Ramadan, there are several exceptions; in particular young children, the elderly and feeble, pregnant and nursing mothers, the traveler and people with chronic illnesses that prevent them from fasting. Adults and care givers cook and attend to the needs of those not fasting and according to Islam this a considered a charitable act, so relax and again use common sense read, visit SMCCU, take advantage of the quiet roads and retail establishments during the day. Capitalize on the kindness of people; join Muslims for an Iftar, an authentic one, not in a restaurant or at a resort. Visit a work colleague, friend, a Muslim you know at a home Iftar or join a tent or a masjid Iftar feeding the poor by handing out juice boxes, or a fruit like an orange or a banana. It’s about everyone coming together fasting or not, in an effort to improve the relations we have with everyone in our community.

As to the topic of appropriate dress, keep in mind that modesty in dress is emphasized in Ramadan and all should maintain the same standards that are requested of them in malls and public places every day.  Shoulders should be covered for both men and women, and women and men should mind there lengths, keeping in mind the heightened spirituality during the Holy Month of Ramadan, a month in which all of us should reach out to each other and exercise the absolute ultimate show of humanity and tolerance towards one another. For a list of Ramadan Do’s & Dont’s visit our Ramadan Etiquette page on our website.

 

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SMCCU Hosts Business Councils for Iftar during Ramadan


The SMCCU has been pleased to host several business councils and corporations this month as  part of its aim to promote cultural understanding throughout the month of Ramadan. One of the highlights this year was a private Iftar arranged jointly for several business councils including The German Emirati Joint Business Council, Canadian Business Council, South African Business Council, Australian Business Council, and Netherlands Business Council. The event held earlier this month was attended by more than 130 members and guests. The SMCCU is keen to provide a platform for cultural exchange through its many initiatives and programmes. Corporations and local business groups frequent our programmes throughout the year as attendees gain insight into the culture, tradition, and religion of the UAE.

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Ramadan 2012 Close to 2000 Guests visit the SMCCU


This Ramadan season, close to 2000 guests visited the SMCCU for  traditional Iftar meals at sunset. The dinners which were held each night during Ramadan, highlighted the customs, traditions, and religious activities that take place surrounding the breaking of the fast. Eight local Business Councils including the American Business Council joined us for private events as well as companies like Motorola, Jones Lang LaSalle, Aldes, Zurich, Clyde and Company,  and Emirates Airlines FaceCard. Other notable groups visiting this year were Rotaract, American Women’s Association, Hult University and American School of Dubai along with visitors and guests from the UAE at our open Iftar Events. In addition, representatives of SMCCU visited BASF, Pepsico, Nokia, and Majid Al Futaim for Cultural Awareness Presentations about Ramadan. Our aim as always is to promote cross cultural understanding and the Iftar Dinners during Ramadan are a great way to interact with our youth volunteers. Thanks to all of our guests and Emirati hosts for making this Ramadan one of the highlights of 2012.

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Lecture Series in Partnership with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry


Ramadan Festival and Dubai Sports World

 Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry is organising a Ramadan Festival for all members of the community at Dubai World Trade Centre, from August 1st to 31st. There will also be a special lecture series hosted for the Dubai Chamber of Commerce in partnership with SMCCU.  The event titled “Understanding Ramadan” will be held August 16th and “Sawm, One of the Pillars” will be held on August 17th. Both hour long Lectures will begin at 9:30pm.

The month-long Dubai Chamber Ramadan Festival will run alongside Dubai Sports World, a new indoor sporting initiative which encourages children and young people to play sports, and will offer Suhour business networking opportunities, religious activities as well as sporting and charity events.

The Dubai Chamber Ramadan Festival has been organised in collaboration with Duplays, Ignite Fitness, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Adopt a Camp and Nucleus Healthcare Consultants.

It will be held in the interconnected halls of the Dubai World Trade Centre arena and Sheikh Saeed Halls. Almost 25,000 square metres of space have been dedicated to for a Ramadan Tent, Corporate Majlis, indoor football and rugby pitches, basketball courts, a fitness gym, gaming zones and entertainment facilities.

The Dubai Chamber Ramadan Festival will also host a number of group exercise classes for people of all ages and fitness levels, including fitness boot camps and yoga sessions. A series of lectures about health and nutrition, as well as religious talks about understanding Ramadan and the objectives of fasting are planned during the month-long schedule of activities.  To sign-up for these lectures, please emaildania.keilani@dubaichamber.com

For more information visit their website at  http://www.dubaichamber.com/news/dubai-chamber-organises-month-long-festival-to-celebrate-ramadan.

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