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Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim -Day 12

Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim -Day 12

Well-known imams are conducting special taraweeh prayer sessions in UAE mosques throughout the holy month.

By Bernd Debusmann Jr./senior Reporter

Published: Tue 30 Jun 2015, 12:33 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:19 PM

A mosque is in itself a special place, a place of worship and a community centre, but during Ramadan taraweeh prayers the atmosphere around them is truly electric, as people from all walks of life and from around the globe come together to listen to portions of the Quran.

Although, as I understand it, attendance at the taraweeh prayers is not mandatory, most mosques I’ve passed by during this time were teeming with people, to the point that some of the late arrivals were standing in the doorways or even outside. No-one, however, seemed to be bothered by the heat or the stifling humidity. The dedication continues to amaze me.

Religion transcends national boundaries, and this is most readily apparent outside a mosque. Over the last few nights, I’ve heard people speaking English with a wide variety of accents — Urdu, Arabic, Turkish, Russian and Swahili — as well as dozens of other languages I couldn’t recognize. In Dubai, where many people tend to stick to others of similar backgrounds, it is heartening to see people from all across the globe come together.

Another interesting aspect of Ramadan in the UAE — which I was not aware of — is the visits by high profile, celebrated imams to conduct special taraweeh prayers. On Saturday, for example, over 10,000 people turned up at Dubai’s Zabeel Mosque to listen to Sheikh Dr Abdul Rahman Al Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

To put it simply, he’s a huge deal, and my Muslim friends and colleagues tell me that other well-known imams will be holding similar prayer sessions throughout the holy month. This is interesting, especially given that I can’t think of anything comparable in my own religion (Roman Catholicism), other than perhaps the crowd that would attend a Mass delivered by Desmond Tutu, or Pope Benedict himself.

I did not go inside to attend the prayers — I wouldn’t understand even if I did — but was curious as to what was being said. To my delight, I found that English (and sometimes French) translations of taraweeh prayers are provided on a few channels providing live feeds from Mecca. I’m not sure if this is a Ramadan-specific feature of these channels (I never watched before), but it’s helpful for those of us who don’t speak Arabic and are wondering what exactly is going on.— bernd@khaleejtimes.com

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