'Before we eat, we check if anyone nearby is unfed'

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Before we eat, we check if anyone nearby is unfed
Their Iftar is an awesome combination of Arabic, Indian and Filipino cuisine.

Abu Dhabi - Shajahan pointed out that Fathima was a Christian, who had embraced Islam after coming to the UAE.


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Sat 17 Jun 2017, 8:20 PM

The abode of Shajahan Abbas' family, nestled in old Al Bahya, is an oasis of love and peace. The Indian-Filipino couple believes Ramadan is a month to promote religious harmony and tolerance. For them, compassion is the most important quality in life.
Shajahan Abbas is a businessman and Fathima looks after home affairs.
"Iftar is a good way to bond together because otherwise I usually return very late from work," Shajahan said while holding his 24-day-old Zarmina. The couple now has four kids.
Fathima loves to cook and Shajahan is more than happy to serve others. 
Their Iftar is an awesome combination of Arabic, Indian and Filipino cuisine.
In a hurry to adorn the table with dishes Dana, 7, the eldest child of the couple, drops a jar of juice and even falls over it. Four-and-half-year old Mohammad and one-and-half-year-old Yaminah clap and hoot as they approach the messed up floor before slipping on it too. The kids' nanny rushes to the scene and cleans up the mess. Normalcy returns and table is finally spread for Iftar.
Apart from dates, fruits, laban and juices, there's harees, biryani, chicken adobo and pancit. The last two are Filipino dishes.
"In chicken adobo, there's chicken, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, salt and black pepper. Pancit is noodles with cabbage, carrot, beans, soya sauce, shrimp and small slices of chicken or meat," Fathima explained.
"Usually we keep it light during Iftar with dates and harees. At times, my husband brings a special porridge from his workplace," Fathima said.
So what's so special about the 'special' porridge?
"It is made with rice, dry fruits, curry and mint leaves, ginger, garlic, coconut, black seed and peppered with shreds of chicken," Shajahan said. He distributes the special porridge made at his cafeteria to nearby mosques and his staff at Oasis carwash during the holy month. Shajahan follows the notion: 'the more you give, the more you get'.
"My father, my role model, always told me to be considerate about the wellbeing of others as we do for ourselves. Before you eat, we should always check if someone nearby is hungry and unfed."
Shajahan also distributes Iftar packets on road. He is religious but likes all cultures and religions in equal measure.
"No one should be forced to believe in any religion. I started fasting from the age of seven. Fathima has been fasting for the last 11 years or so. Dana fasts when she doesn't have to go to school. And she and her mother both recite the Holy Quran regularly. Even my younger son Mohammad fasts half day during this holy month."
Shajahan said he enjoys everything in life - good or bad experiences.
"We should always be thankful to Allah and be compassionate."
Talking about his better half, Shajahan said he always liked the way Filipinos work and was impressed with Fathima's work ethics. 
"She joined as a staff. I got to know her better and felt she will be my right partner. I shared my views with her. Although it wasn't easy, it was not too difficult also to convince our families. We celebrated our marriage in three places - here, Kerala and Manila."
Shajahan pointed out that Fathima was a Christian, who had embraced Islam after coming to the UAE. "It was a choice she made," Shajahan said.
Fathima said she found her true calling and converted.
"I was attracted to Islam. I can't express in words the reason but I strongly felt a need to embrace Islam."
Both Shajahan and Fathima have had a huge influence on their kids. "It is always important to care and share. People should not fight with each other for small things but compete to do good for others," Dana said.
Mohammad chipped in: "I fight with my sister for everything but I like her very much."
Fathima said the children get a good dose of advice from their father every now and then. "It is very important that from early years children are taught about good deeds. We all read Quran and understand that love and peace are the cornerstone of Islam," the mother of four said.
It's not only the deep words of Fathima that soothe me but the Iftar prepared by her is also lip-smacking. 
"Ramadan is a month for everyone to pray and repent for their sins. It is a month to forgive and forget past misunderstandings and spread the message of love and brotherhood," Shajahan added. 
The couple's faith is deeply rooted in Islamic teachings. They believe more in dua than Iftar gorging. The family just hopes months like Ramadan helps to spread the message of love, peace and brotherhood.

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