Ramadan is an awfully special time for Muslims worldwide, its meaning becoming manifest through inward piety, benevolence toward others and daily acts of charity touching those in need, by those more fortunate.
And in the UAE throngs of labourers are driven to toil day and night in woefully uncomfortable conditions that make the gift of giving charitably such a rewarding treat for those of us who live and work in the comforts of airconditioned respite.
During 2011’s blisteringly hot Holy Month of Ramadan, which fell upon the ovenlike temperatures of August, a dear friend of mine galvanized the good will of ten strangers and acquaintances, opened up her home, inviting all who wished to participate, and orchestrated the filling of bags full of goodies to create Care Packages, all of which we would later distribute to hundreds of labourers.
Because Care Packages are created in the spirit of abundance and goodwill, their contents are filled with items labourers will use most readily: toothpaste, soaps, mobile calling cards, apples, bananas, juices, cuppa-soups, noodles, deodorants…you get the idea.
And because Ramadan days are tiring, exhausting, dehydrating – not a drop of water nor a crumb of food to pass lips till sunset – the Care Packages are embraced and thankfully accepted by labourers ready to break their fast at Iftar. Indeed the most appropriate time to hand out Care Packages is the moment Iftar is called, which is when we did so.
Since the early 1960s, firing the cannon has been used to mark the end of the fast at sunset thus alerting entire communities of the precise moment when food and drink can be taken. This is Iftar: the meal served at the end of the day during Ramadan, to break the day’s fast. Often 12 hours pass before this “breakfast” is eaten by weary folk.
By the way, the first military cannons, which were made by the British, are still in the UAE Dubai Police’s possession.
The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst” and “sun-baked ground.” It is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who spend the month in fasting. As opposed to other holidays, when people often indulge, Ramadan is by nature a time of sacrifice and reflection, and especially so for those of us who are non-Muslim living in the heart of Islam.
Through fasting, a Muslim experiences hunger and thirst, and sympathizes with those in the world who have little to eat every day.
Through increased charity, Muslims develop feelings of generosity and goodwill toward others. The Prophet Muhammad said, “A man’s wealth is never diminished by charity.”
Through family and other gatherings, Muslims strengthen the bonds of their communities.
But the above notions resonate for people of all denominations. Ten of us gathered together during Ramadan 2011 to give charitably to those noble labourers whose mortal coil we wished to soften. It was my friend Camilla, below, who incited this newfound dedication to give charitably. And for this, I am truly thankful.