Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim -Day 26

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Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim -Day 26

Eid is meant to provide Muslims well-earned congratulations for their month of fasting and quiet introspection.


Bernd Debusmann Jr.

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Published: Mon 13 Jul 2015, 7:20 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Jul 2015, 11:56 AM

As Ramadan enters its final few days, it's hard not to notice that the mood has changed. At first, people seemed genuinely happy the holy month was beginning. A few weeks later, the mood seemed subdued, with many people visibly exhausted. Now, in the important last ten days of Ramadan, there is a palpable sense of excitement for Eid, unlike anything I've seen before.
As with most aspects of Islam, few non-Muslims know the background of Eid. According to a hadith I read, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha came to pass when the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked the residents of Madinah about two pre-Islamic festivals that were traditional.
"Instead of those two days, Allah has appointed two other days which are better, the days of Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha," came his reply.
Interestingly, this provides another interesting historical perspective on the history of Arabia and how Islamic practices replaced earlier ones. Some non-Muslims tend to think there was no history in the Arabian Peninsula prior to the birth of Islam.Eid is meant to provide Muslims well-earned congratulations for their month of fasting and quiet introspection. But looking around Dubai, I can't help but think that Eid - like Ramadan in many respects - is in danger of eventually being so commercialised that it will lose its true meaning.
In a way, Eid to me seems a bit like an expensive Ramadan Iftar meal when people have three full dinners in one sitting after a full day of fasting. In Eid's case, after a month of fasting many people will happily spend lots of money on consumer products and expensive trips. Looking back, this is something I've actually witnessed before getting here.
Last year, living in London, I couldn't help but notice the huge influx of Gulf Arabs - Saudis, Emiratis and Kuwaitis - who all of a sudden turned up for Eid.
They were very visible, with the men racing (and often illegally parking) their exotic supercars throughout Kensington and Knightsbridge, and the women heavily-laden with shopping bags from Harrods.
Flipping through magazines and newspapers here, one can see a number of Eid deals, on everything ranging from electronics and clothing at local stores to five-star getaway packages to Thailand, Romania or the Maldives.
This, of course, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Muslims have earned some time to unwind after Ramadan, which is long, grueling and requires intense mental and physical dedication.
One KT reader recently told me: "Worldly life is not meant to be enjoyed - it is meant to prove your deservedness for and to prepare for an eternal life of enjoyment. Once this is established and kept in mind as the fundamental key performance indicator, everything else becomes understandable."
But from my perspective as a non-Muslim living in my first year in the UAE, it seems that the spirit of Ramadan may not carry through to Eid.
The kindness and sense of community and charity are not meant to be turned off like a light switch, the day Ramadan ends Shawwal begins.

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