Celebrating Ramadan with the Al Qasimi Foundation
Al Qasimi Foundation
September 21, 2013
In the Muslim calendar, Ramadan is a time of fasting and spiritual reflection, re-connecting with family and friends, and sharing with others out of thankfulness for one’s blessings
Ms. Ghadah Al Kadri, Project Coordinator at the Al Qasimi Foundation, describes the moment that, for her, captures the significance of Ramadan, “Each night, men and women come together to go to the mosque after fasting, to remember others and give thanks in prayer.”
To celebrate the holy month and its emphasis on spiritual renewal, family, and sharing with others, the Foundation hosted a community Iftar dinner and organized a Give Back event to reflect the voluntary sacrifice, called sadaqa, that Muslims make during Ramadan to meet the needs of the less fortunate in their communities.
“As Ramadan is such an important time of year in the Muslim world, we felt it was vital not only to give back to those less privileged than us, but also to assist expatriates in understanding more about the local traditions shared during this time,” explains Dr. Natasha Ridge, the Foundation’s Executive Director.
The Iftar dinner was held at the home of Mrs. Fatima Al Tenaiji in Al Rams and was an opportunity for 20 expatriates of different nationalities to learn more about the significance of Ramadan and experience some of the Emirati traditions associated with its celebration first-hand. Many of the participants, largely non-Muslims, chose to refrain from food and drink for the day and broke their fast with Mrs. Al Tenaiji’s homemade food, which included harees, fish, and rice with chicken, known as machbous. After everyone had eaten their fill, the hosts and guests talked about clothing and culture over tea, coffee, and dates.
“I didn't really understand the full meaning of Ramadan until we took part in the community Iftar,” says Ms. Denise Burnett, who is from the United Kingdom. “To me, it meant a long month in which coffee shops were closed when I went shopping—selfish, I know. Today I have more of an understanding about it.”
“We felt that it was also an excellent occasion to give us an insight into the local culture as well as customs: for us it was an unforgettable evening. The invitation really meant a lot to us,” recalls Italian Ms. Anita Luise, as she describes the benefit of the Iftar gathering.
In addition, the staff felt it was important to share in the Ramadan tradition of sadaqa and so coordinated a Ramadan Give Back. Foundation staff members donated more than 50 bags filled with gifts and distributed them to street cleaners from the Al Dhait to Al Rams areas of Ras Al Khaimah.
“I felt very excited and happy, as if I were buying a gift for myself, and while choosing the articles, I was really selective because I wanted the gift to be very special,” explains Ms. Marwah Al Hassan, Project Coordinator for Teaching and Learning at the Foundation, as she describes the significance of the Give Back event.
“The workers were really surprised and skeptical,” recalls Ms. Hanadi Mohammed, Project Assistant for Teaching and Learning at the Al Qasimi Foundation, “but when we handed out the gifts to them, their expressions suddenly changed, and all you could see was the joy—real joy that comes from the heart.”
The Al Qasimi Foundation members didn’t limit their Ramadan sadaqa to the United Arab Emirates; they extended the Give Back celebration to India as well. There, they helped one orphan by covering her school expenses and medical costs.
Mr. Shaju Maelepuram Kunjappan, an office assistant at the Foundation, witnessed the team’s impact on the orphaned girl’s life. “During my vacation, I spoke to her family and agreed that the Foundation would sponsor her studying for one year, including uniforms, books, and medical fees.”