Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim - Day 21

The most important of these last ten nights, is, of course, Laylat-al-Qadr, or the “Night of Power”, which the text of the Quran says is “better than a thousand months.”

By Bernd Debusmann Jr. - Senior Reporter

Published: Thu 9 Jul 2015, 1:21 AM

- Photo: Reuters

Before coming to Dubai, I thought I was well informed about Islam and about Ramadan. But until living here and experiencing Islam on a day-to-day basis, I’d never understood the various intricacies of the holy month or the important significance of these last ten days that we’re now in.

Partly, this is a function of Islam’s relatively subdued role in places where I’ve lived compared to Dubai. Even in cities with relatively large Muslim populations — Washington DC, London or Amsterdam — Ramadan came and went without much notice. Most non-Muslims know Ramadan is taking place, but don’t know why.

Until a few weeks ago, I had no idea these last days of Ramadan are considered more blessed. Those Muslims who are able to spend as much time as possible in the mosque during this time period is a practice that is known as I’tikaf, or “retreat”.

The most important of these last ten nights, is, of course, Laylat-al-Qadr, or the “Night of Power”, which the text of the Quran says is “better than a thousand months” and in which angels and the Spirit come down “on every errand”. I’m quite keen to see the crowds and atmosphere around mosques at this time, as many Muslim readers have sent me e-mails expressing a profound sense of excitement.

“The last ten days are a very valuable,” one helpful reader told me. “We Muslims don’t want to miss that day (the Night of Power)…for us all ten days are unique, especially the odd five days.”

I expect that the additional religious significance of these last few days will mean that the end of Ramadan has a completely different atmosphere to the rest of it, as the essence of the holy month is brought to the fore and the unimportant aspects of it — the shopping, the expensive Iftars, the deals at the mall etc — fall to the wayside.

In what has become a running theme during Ramadan, I continue to be shocked at how little many non-Muslim expats know about Ramadan or Islam in general. I recently had a conversation with a Brit, who has lived in the UAE for a few years, in which I discussed my interest in writing about Laylat al-Qadrn.

 His response: “What’s Laylat al-Qadr? Night of Power? What?”

This, more than anything else I’ve experienced so far this Ramadan, reinforces my thought that in future years a greater effort should be made to explain what Ramadan actually is and means, instead of defining it to non-Muslims as a month of slow work and no daytime drinking, eating or smoking.


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