This is my 10th year living in Dubai and my 9th Ramadan. I will admit in the beginning I didn’t really understand it. To me, it was simply a month of not being allowed to eat or drink in daylight hours, or dance at night. And ashamedly, I saw it as a month of disruption to normal day-to-day living.
It was only in 2012 when I began to work with and befriend a number of Muslim colleagues, I started to gain a deeper understanding of the holy month. Now I appreciate it is a deeply spiritual time of piety, reflection, purity of heart, connection with self, friends, family and God, self-control, compassion and empathy for those less fortunate. With charity and acts of kindness significantly encouraged during this time.
With the core values and virtues of Ramadan resonating so clearly with me, I began my journey to committing to fasting with my Muslim brothers and sisters in this special month.
Due to a health condition, my doctor strongly advised I do a food-only fast, with small amounts of water during the day. So while I am not be able to fully appreciate the fasting journey, I am doing my best within the limitations of my body.
30 days is a long time – particularly for someone who has never fasted before. But I knew if I was clear on my ‘WHY?’, and that “WHY?” was meaningful and purposeful, I would stay committed to the end. Here are the reasons why I decided to fast this Ramadan:
1) To say thank you to the UAE
The UAE has been my home for the last 10 years. It welcomed me with open arms and has treated me, a foreigner and non-Muslim, with nothing but respect and understanding. Even hanging up Christmas decorations around the shopping malls to make its Christian and Catholic residents feel more at home. It has also provided me with endless opportunities, friends, love, financial security and a constant roof over my head during this time. But even though it has bent over backwards to accommodate me, I have not necessarily gone to any great lengths to say thank you. So, as my way of expressing my gratitude to the UAE for allowing me to live here, happily and freely, for all these years, I will be honoring the holy month of Ramadan and fasting.
In light of the recent events in Manchester, fasting with my Muslim brothers and sisters, and promoting it on the internet, is my attempt to inspire love not hate. To say in times like these we need to show solidarity and unity with our fellow men and women. To be respectful of each others’ differences and to live in harmony - as we have been able to achieve so well in Dubai. Don’t let those who want to use fear to segregate and divide us win. We are all human beings after all.
My dream is to live in a world where we can all be different – in religion, race, gender, body size, abilities etc. – and be respectful of those differences, and each other. And if my fasting can inspire just one person to educate themselves more on different religions – and to be respectful of them – then this post will have been worthwhile.
For the last two years, work has been a significant focus in my life. Asking myself everyday “How can I add even more value to the people of this world through my coaching and my writing?” I’ve realized in doing this I have spent much time connecting with others, but not much time connecting with myself. And while I do not practice any religion, I do believe we are all connected in some way. By something greater than ourselves. Whether you want to call it energy, or the universe, or our creator. And connecting with this too is also something I have neglected.
(Strangely, even though this is only my third day of fasting, the feeling of connection is strong. Knowing that as I am breaking my fast, there are millions of people out there breaking theirs. Having also been on their own personal spiritual journey throughout the day. This has given me a sense of belonging. Belonging to something greater than myself. And this is something I have missed dearly.)
4) Spiritual growth
For those of you who know me, either in person, through LinkedIn or my writing, I’m fairly pragmatic and practical in my approach. I am not what could be described as ‘fluffy’ in my communication or my mindset. So the word ‘spiritual’ has not always been clearly defined for me.
Over the last three days, I have begun to get clarity on my own definition. Spirituality meaning, to me, showing sincere understanding, compassion, empathy and love towards oneself and others. Gaining clarity on your values and what is really most important to you in life. An appreciation and gratitude for everything you have been gifted with in this world. A respect for everyone and everything on this planet. Connecting to something greater than you or I. And a focus on “How can I contribute to this world to make it a better place?” rather than “me.”
In the spirit of Ramadan, I will be giving back this month. All the money I usually spend on daily coffees, lunches, snacks and breakfasts will be saved and donated to a family in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh through the Maria Cristina Foundation. I hope this inspires others to do a good deed today. Ramadan Mubarak everyone!