Building tolerance – Dubai Ramadan Forum to help non-Muslims understand Islam better

SHAFAQNA - Why do Muslims end their fast with dates? Why do they fast in Ramadan? Non-Muslims curious to learn about Ramadan and Islam can find the answers at an iftar series hosted exclusively for them.

The free event is organised by the Dubai Ramadan Forum every Ramadan. The first iftar under the series was held on Thursday at The Bubble Lounge at Dubai World Trade Centre. Another one was held on Friday and the concluding iftar in the series will be held on July 10.

Last year, hundreds had registered for the iftar series and around 200 people ended up attending in total. Organisers expect around 250 guests this Ramadan. Non-Muslims can attend the iftar by first registering on the event’s website,, after which they will receive a confirmation code.

Some of the guests who attended the iftar on Thursday said they knew “nothing” about fasting rules but a few impressed the host and presenter with their basic knowledge of Islam. A talk on Ramadan and Islam was followed by iftar, after which guests were invited to see how Muslims prayed. Some even joined the prayer as they sought to take in the experience. Later on, a quiz was held, which rewarded those who came up with the right answers with Dh200 shopping vouchers.

“I didn’t know anything about Ramadan before this iftar. This is my first Ramadan in Dubai,” said 26-year-old Filipino expat Carlo Galapia, a Christian. “It was good to get the answers.” Another guest, Manoj Kumar C.K., a Hindu from India, said it was his first iftar in the UAE. Kumar, 40, wanted to know the main purpose of Ramadan. Having observed Muslims fasting in India, he said he was familiar with Ramadan. “But I find that it’s totally different here,” he added. “In my home state of Kerala, mosques normally don’t host large community iftar meals like they do here. Also, the working hours in Ramadan are normal, not shorter like here in Dubai.”

The host and presenter for the evening, Arshad Khan, who is the head of non-Arabic programmes of the forum, told guests that the main purpose of fasting is to learn self-control so as to attain piety by shunning sins and obeying divine commands. He also explained that starting the iftar with dates is a sunnah, or a tradition started by Prophet Mohammad [PBUH], which Muslims strive to follow in their daily lives.

“Our main purpose here is to explain to our non-Muslim guests the significance of Ramadan and the basics of Islam,” Khan said. “That’s why we started this iftar series four years ago. Some expats are surrounded by Muslims but they don’t know anything about us. But I’m impressed by the knowledge of a few of the guests — they know about the five pillars of Islam and what the shahada [‘testimony of faith’ taken in Arabic to enter Islam] means.”

The testimony means to bear witness that “there is no god worthy of worship except Allah [the One God] and that Mohammad is the servant and messenger of Allah.”


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