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A week ago, I wrote an article on my experience of fasting for a few days in Ramadan. I came to the conclusion that a non-Muslim can never really understand Ramadan fasting because without the religion, it is a mental and physical challenge with no rewarding inner goal or purpose. The article elicited a number of interesting and informative responses and comments from Khaleej Times readers. Some Muslim readers agreed with my general sentiment, some did not.
The most common response — by far — was people telling me that if I’m fasting properly and haven’t converted, then I must be doing something wrong, or that fasting would almost surely be my first step towards Islam.
This brings up an interesting question: How many non-Muslims are encouraged to convert by their experiences during Ramadan? Dubai is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities where people of many religions come together, and converts — in my opinion — are a natural outcome of that. I’d like to hear readers’ views on that.
The second most common response I got was that fasting should remind everyone (including non-Muslims) how grateful we all should be to have what we need. I hadn’t thought of Ramadan this way before.
But, as one reader pointed out, many expats in Dubai are well-off and far removed from the reality of many underprivileged people, both in the UAE and in their own countries. If fasting can help non-Muslims feel the same sense of community that Muslims show during Ramadan — which transcends socio-economic status and bonds people from all walks of life together — then, perhaps, more non-Muslims should give it a try.
The third most common response — and in my eyes the most important one — is that fasting improves understanding of people, of Islam, and of our Muslim friends and colleagues. There is a tendency, even among certain segments of Dubai’s non-Muslim expat population, to not even attempt to understand Ramadan or Islam in general.
Ramadan — whether you’ve chosen to fast or not — is an excellent opportunity for the rest of us to listen, observe and understand, but most importantly, respect, the religion of the country and the region in which we now live. — email@example.com
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