Having lived in Dubai for almost 10 years, I have had the pleasure of experiencing Ramadan 9 times. 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.
For me, Ramadan was simply a time of fasting from food, water, sexual activity and immoral behaviour. But now I appreciate it is so much more than that. It’s 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.
Speaking recently to my Muslim friends about Ramadan, I realised over the last year I had neglected two things in my life: spirituality and connection with something greater than myself. It was this observation that initiated my commitment to joining my Muslim brothers and sisters in fasting during this special month.
Due to a health condition, my doctor strongly advised me against fasting on any level. But after some hardcore negotiating, we finally settled on a food only fast, with small amounts of water throughout the day. So while I am not able to fully appreciate the fasting journey, I am doing my best within the limitations of my body.
30 days of fasting is a long time – particularly for someone who has never fasted before. But I knew if I was clear on my ‘WHY?’, and that the “WHY?” was meaningful and purposeful, I would stay committed to the end. Here are 5 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 the UAE 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 honouring 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 very 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.
For the last 2 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 realised in doing so, I have neglected to connect with the people around me (outside of my friends) and 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 personally, through LinkedIn or my writing, I’m fairly pragmatic and practical in my approach. I am not what could be described as ‘woo woo’ or ‘fluffy’ in my communication or my mind set. So the word ‘spiritual’ has not always been clearly defined for me.
Over the last 3 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.
This is the Sheikh family, currently living in a makeshift home of some piled bricks and a metal sheet roof. The money I save will be enough to pay rent for proper accommodation for 2 years. And I pledge I will continue to pay their rent for as long as they need me to.
If you would like to give back in this month of charity and would like to donate to the Maria Cristina Foundation, please go to their Just Giving Page: https://www.justgiving.com/maria-cristina. You can either donate money towards the education of a child or towards a family.
I hope this inspires others to do a good deed today.
Ramadan Mubarak everyone!
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Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.