From kids to grown-ups who have been fasting for years: UAE's non-Muslims who refrain from food during Ramadan

'The first year I fasted in solidarity of my friends but the remaining 13 years, I fasted for myself'



Photo by Shihab
Photo by Shihab

By Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Tue 19 Apr 2022, 12:06 PM

Last updated: Tue 19 Apr 2022, 7:50 PM

During the month of Ramadan, as Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk, there are several non-Muslims who partake in this out of respect for their fellow brothers.

Little ones with a big heart

10-year-old Gabriel Mooney and his 9-year-old brother Aonghus fasted for the first time this year out of respect for their friends. “Aonghus was invited for an Iftar to his best friend Yousuf’s house,” said their mother, Marie McMullan.

“So, he wanted to respect his friend and have a feel for Ramadan. That is when Gabriel also decided to fast. Due to a medical condition, Gabriel cannot be dehydrated at any point so he sipped on water throughout the day, but Aonghus went all in.”

“It was a little hard,” said Aonghus. “But I managed to complete it.”

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Fourteen years of fasting

Abu-Dhabi based sales manager, Vellayathu Radhakrishnan, has been fasting for over 14 years.

“When I first came to Abu Dhabi, I was living in a shared accommodation with all my colleagues,” he said.

“Most of them were fasting, so, I first started fasting with them in solidarity. However, soon I began to notice the physical and mental benefits. It was a completely different experience for me. So, I would say, the first year I fasted for them. The remaining 13 years, I fasted for myself.”

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If they can do it, so can we

Deepu Prasanth works as a procurement manager at Shapoorji Pallonji group and is in his ninth year of fasting. “I have grown up in the UAE to the sounds of azaan,” he said.

“A lot of my dad’s friends were Muslims, so I was very comfortable with the routine of Ramadan. In 2013, my wife Nisha and I decided to try fasting. The first day was very hard. We had a splitting headache. My wife prepared a lot of food. However, after eating just dates and watermelon, we both were full. We were so exhausted that we couldn’t imagine doing it again.”

“But after a few days, I thought to myself, if the Muslims can do it, why can’t I? So, my wife and I tried again. After a day or two, we started to get used to it. We would buy a few snacks from the local restaurant. My wife would make a nice dinner. My children, Nihal who is now 15 and Lavanya who is now 13, would make juice.

"It felt very festive and brought the family together in a beautiful way. Three years ago, my children also started fasting. We love the month of Ramadan and the happiness it brings us.”

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Cultural immersion

Similarly, for lifestyle and nutrition coach Debbie Rogers, this is the seventh year fasting.

“I tried fasting during Ramadan ever since I came to Dubai 12 years ago,” she said. “But it would either be a day here and there or I would fast on food but still drink water.

"In 2015, I started fasting properly because I really wanted to engage and immerse myself in the culture that I was living in. For me, taking part in Ramadan really helped me feel like I was a part of this community. I love the sense of togetherness and the charity that comes during Ramadan.”

“Also, as a nutrition coach, it really helps me to connect with my clients as most of them are fasting. I know what they are feeling and what they are going through. I enjoy challenging myself and seeing how my body reacts to the lack of food and water and to the change in sleep patterns during Ramadan. The biggest challenge for me for the first couple of days is the lack of caffeine because I am an absolute coffee addict. Ramadan gives me an opportunity to reset my body.”

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First Iftar ever

Meanwhile for Dubai expat Dr. Velma Mohan, it is the first year that she is fasting. “I have a lot of colleagues who are like family to me,” said Dr. Velma, Research and Development Manager at Athena Education.

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“They are all Muslims and they fast during Ramadan. So, as a mark of respect to them, I also decided to try it this year. To be honest, it has been the most beautiful experience in my life. It has detoxified not only my body, but also my mind. I feel like my body, soul and my mind has become so light. My good friend Marwa, who has been guiding me on what to eat and how, has invited me to her house for Iftar next week. I am really excited and looking forward to attending my first Iftar party.”


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