Religions of Dubai


What is Ramadan?

'During the month of Ramadan, (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar), every healthy Muslim is required to fast from dawn until dusk. During daylight hours, those fasting abstain from all food, drink, inhaled substances, sexual activity and nutritionally-related medicine or any non-essential oral medicine.

The Adhan (call to prayer) for Al Maghrib (sunset prayer) marks the end of the fast for the day. Before praying, the fast is broken with dates and water and after prayer the Iftar meal (breakfast) is eaten with the family and friends. In the Emirates traditional dishes such as Harees, Fareed and lugamat are eaten daily for Iftar. Fasting is for persons who are physically fit. A pregnant woman for example, is not obliged to fast, neither an old or sick person.'

For more information visit The Date Palm Tree and Traditional Foods

'In addition to physical abstention, all normal undesirable behaviour is especially frowned upon. No fighting, swearing, arguing, lying, or other sins are permitted. Muslims naturally avoid such bad behaviour anyway, but sometimes people fall into error. By properly observing the Ramadan fast, a Muslim can correct any wrong doing and the error of his or her ways.

Prophet Mohammed (PBUH*) teaches us that Ramadan is the month when Allah (God) bestows blessings, mercy and forgiveness. 'During the month of Ramadan, the gates of Paradise are open, the gates of hell fire are closed and the Shaytans (Devils) are chained'. For these reasons Muslims make a special effort through dedication and focus on fasting, prayer and zakat (charity) to take advantage of this opportunity for forgiveness.'

*PBUH - 'Peace Be Upon Him' is always used after mentioning The Prophet Mohammed - this is seen as a mark of respect.

Taken from the booklet ‘A Taste of the Emirates’ written and produced by Michelle Sabti for the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding which is located near the Majlis Gallery in Bastakia, Dubai. Tel: (04) 353 6666. Email:

Does Daily Life Change During Ramadan?

'During Ramadan compulsory prayers five times a day remain the same. However, there are extra prayers known as Taraweeh.

These prayers are recited in the evening immediately after Al Isha prayers around 8pm. It is a non-compulsory group prayer, which lasts about half an hour.

There is also an extra late night prayer called Tahajood which is optional and is recited about an hour before dawn. Muslims will get up for Tahajood prayers and eat a meal called Suhoor. This is just before the call to Al Fajr (dawn) prayer and is a special time for family and friends to gather in the home or in the special Ramadan tents. Typlical foods eaten at this meal are Harees and Fareed. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) advised that the Suhoor meal is to be eaten as close as possible to the call to Al Fajr prayers.'

Who is the Tabailor (Musaher)?

'Although not seen so much nowadays, the Tabailor in the village was responsible for waking up the neighbourhood before the pre-dawn meal called Suhoor. Two hours before dawn, the Tabailor, usually a self-appointed man, would walk the streets of the village sometimes followed by others, beating his drum and singing: "Wake up! And eat your Suhoor, fasters, Wake up! Sleepers.... and worship your ever awakened God!".

This would continue throughout Ramadan and on the second day of Eid is the Tabailor's 'payday'. In the morning he would walk through the village with his donkey, followed by children clapping and drumming. People would extend their appreciation of his work during the Holy month by offering gifts, food, and money, which would be loaded onto his donkey and taken home.'

Before your Dubai holiday why not learn more about Muslims, Islam and the Koran plus The Five Pillars of Islam?

For those seeking greater knowledge, we've pulled together some of the information found with a little research on the internet, and included a few personal observations as to Islamic beliefs, the 'month' of Ramadan and the tradition of fasting during Ramadan in Dubai. If you know more about the culture and major religion of the area it'll add a whole new aspect to your Dubai holiday.

Ramadan is the holy month for Muslims during which Muslims around the globe celebrate the revelation of the Koran which is the Muslim equivalent of the Christian Bible.

Fasting in the Month of Ramadan : O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

The Benefits of Fasting : Fasting is seen as a great religious and spiritual act. Its purpose is to teach self-discipline, piety and consciousness of Allah. It teaches patience and forbearance. It also teaches consideration, kindness and charity to the poor and needy.

Fasting has two aspects :

1. To leave food, drink and a few other things that the Shari'ah says should be avoided during fasting, and

2. To avoid everything that displeases Allah, to avoid sin altogether and to live the life of Taqwa always.

Fasting is said to have many benefits:

1. It purifies the soul and is healthy for the body.

2. It teaches self-control.

3. It creates the love of Allah and the awareness of His presence with us.

4. It elevates human beings from mere animal existence to an angelic existence.

5. It turns away the Shaitan (Satan/The Devil) from a person.

6. It increases sympathy with the poor and needy and increases the feeling of charity and generosity towards them.

7. It motivates a person to do more good deeds.

8. It pleases Allah and assures us of His forgiveness and Mercy in this life and in the hereafter.

Fasting in Ramadan brings special blessings. The reward of every good deed is multiplied during this month seventy times. Muslims fast together and it gives them a sense of unity and solidarity. Muslims celebrate the month of the Qur'an together and receive encouragement from each other for doing good things.

In practice: Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dawn until sunset. From dusk to dawn Muslims celebrate the Iftar fest when fasting is temporarily suspended and much eating, drinking and celebrating goes on and Dubai comes alive with Ramadan tents at almost every hotel with feasting going on long into the early hours of the morning before the fast starts again. As such it's not unusual for Muslims to actually put weight on during Ramadan! The exact time when the Muslim population of Dubai can stop fasting for the day is published in all major daily newspapers and other publications.

Compared to a normal solar calendar, the only widely used purely lunar calendar is the Islamic or Hijri calendar and as this varies from the solar calendar it means that the 'month' of Ramadan varies from year to year and from country to country depending on the moon. As such the Islamic calendar ceases to be linked to actual seasons and Ramadan therefore drifts backwards about 11 or 12 days each year.

You'll find that amongst Muslims, Ramadan is quite widely celebrated in Dubai.

During your Dubai holiday, Ramadan theoretically means no eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours, but you will find plenty of restaurants and hotel dining rooms open during the day often with Muslim waiters, so it's not a problem.

In the period of Ramadan many of the cinemas in Dubai will not show any movies during the fasting period each day and other entertainment such as music shows will also be postponed until after sunset.

A culture involving Ramadan is not something most Western visitors will have much experience of, so we hope this short article has given you an insight into something that has a major bearing on the lives of substantial numbers of the world's population.

Islam is more than just a religion; it is deep-rooted in the life of Dubai locals and governs their day-to-day life, from eating and drinking to what is worn. You'll see that the culture of Dubai is directly affected by the Islamic religion. Mosques are dotted throughout the city and you'll probably hear the call to prayer five times a day. One of the largest and best known mosques is the Jumeirah Mosque, which is a true example of Islamic architecture and is the only mosque that non-Muslims are allowed to visit - for more information and great ideas to make your holiday in Dubai special, visit our Places to See and Things To Do page.

Enhance your holiday in Dubai by looking at our pages on The Date Palm Tree; Traditional Foods; Muslims, Islam and the Koran; and The Five Pillars of Islam.

Visit Heritage and Culture for more information or have a look at our Brief History of Dubai and the Power and Politics pages and then pay a visit to Dubai Museum on a Big Bus Tour which you'll find is mentioned at length in our Best Ways to See Dubai section.

Enjoy your holiday in Dubai...Drink plenty of's simple!

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