Hot seat: Latifa Flook and Nasif Kayed

<em>Time Out</em> speaks to Latifa Flook and Nasif Kayed, volunteers at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

Hot seat, The Knowledge

What does Ramadan mean to Muslims?
Nasif Kayed: Ramadan is the holiest month of the year. It is the month where you can should do the best you can to stand with the almighty Allah, so you have a clear record of forgiveness. The fi rst 10 days are about forgiveness, the second 10 are about mercy and the last 10 days are about taking you off the list of being qualified for hellfire. So those good deeds that you do in this month could really change your life after. The fasting, the awareness, helping the poor, cleansing yourself, giving good deeds – Ramadan is the most generous of months.

Tell us about fasting.
Latifa: You have a meal very early in the morning and this is actually a very important part of fasting. You should actually make an effort to eat properly, this is before the sun rises and when you hear the call for prayer at the break of dawn you stop eating right there.

And smoking as well?
Latifa: Yes. You stop all the things that you actually intake. The first couple of days can be quite hard, obviously, without caffeine you may get a little bit of a headache or just feel tired, but it does say in the Holy Koran that fasting is prescribed to us, as it was to those before you, so that you can gain awareness. So it really does give us a chance, physically and mentally, to feel for the people who are less fortunate than us and, for us, it is a chance to come closer to our creator.

How should non-Muslims behave during Ramadan?
Latifa: For a non-Muslim, I think the nicest and kindest thing they could do is just try to respect the people that are fasting. You know, Dubai is such a fantastic place, it caters for multicultural things, so you will find that not everything shuts down. You can still fi nd restaurants that are serving takeaway, so people still have an opportunity to buy food, but don’t eat it in front of anyone. Or if someone is tired or maybe they’re in the supermarket doing their shopping slowly, just have patience, because it can be quite tiring when you are fasting and maybe you are not awake, without that caffeine in your body!

What about dress sense?
Latifa: When you are in a Muslim country, the dress code is to dress modestly. So it is good to make an extra special effort at this time of the year, because during the Holy of month Ramadan, when you are fasting, you are trying to keep away from attractions and things we should not be doing.

Is Ramadan also a time of the year where you think about helping other people?
Latifa: That’s one of the big reasons why we are fasting, because you can physically and mentally feel how people who are less fortunate than you feel. Here in Dubai, we have people who are less fortunate. They are away from their families, their wages are not so much, so at every mosque you will find there is an Iftar for the poor. Many of the neighborhoods are also sending rice and dishes from their homes to the mosque, so anyone is welcome to come and have a meal. There is a lot of food passed around the neighborhood.

What does Iftar involve?
Nasif Kayed: Iftar is when you have not eaten all day long. So when you go to a home, there’s not just one appetiser, but a lot of food there, every household has an unbelievable setting for Iftar. So usually you’ll find it’s not just the family by themselves, but it’s the family next door, it’s the family of the next cousin and your friends; there is always some sort of gathering. It’s important to feed others or to be with others socially. Ramadan is a social system also in Islam: it brings people together, makes people do good deeds and have more feelings for each other.

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