Ramadan always arrives in a flash. How could a year have passed so quickly? The nature of life these days is so fast-paced that a huge part of what I appreciate about Ramadan is the gift of time. There are still the same 24 hours in a day but, with shorter working hours and late-evening suhoors, they feel longer. What we choose to do with that extra time makes all the difference.
Lucky for my husband and I, iftar is usually served at my mother-in-law’s or at one of my aunts’ houses. That releases us from the time-consuming task of deciding what the next meal is going to be, planning and shopping for it, and spending hours in the kitchen having to prepare it. This is a huge blessing when you are trying to keep your mind off an empty stomach. With that responsibility off our plates (pun intended), we have the luxury of focusing on the essence of Ramadan. This varies for different people, but to me is about the following things: connecting with the divine, learning and reflection, and giving.
Ramadan gives us a taste of what an average Emirati family used to do on a daily basis in the past, but today’s busy schedules only allow for that on Fridays – gathering with our families and loved ones. Research has proven that closer social ties and family bonds have a direct effect on life expectancy. So, really, Ramadan gatherings are a great long-term investment of time.
The first word in the Quran is “iqraa”, which translates in English as “read’. Time to read and learn is a huge part of what Ramadan means to me. The late Eqyptian author Abbas Mahmoud Oqaad once wrote: “It is only reading which gives one person more than one life.” This quote is also my most retweeted post of 2019, so far – 167, to be exact. I’m glad so many people agree with him.
It is through reading that we learn, transform and become better versions of ourselves. With every book, we learn how to make the most of what is left of our lives. It is also through reading that we nurture the most valuable gift that God has given us: our cognitive minds.
As one of the five pillars of Islam, Muslims are required to pay zakat – a 2.5 per cent tax on our savings – to those in need. Many Muslims prefer to give their zakat during Ramadan, in the spirit of the holy month. For this Ramadan, I would like to call on every person reading this article, whether they are Emirati or from elsewhere, Muslim or non-Muslim, to give not only to people in need, but also to our planet, which is also in desperate need. If we are not the solution, then we are the problem. We need to change the way we live our lives to protect the Earth.
The natural historian Sir David Attenborough says that the wildlife population of our planet has decreased by 60 per cent in the past two decades. There is an imbalance, not helped by the overwhelming impact of carbon emissions and the lack of protection for wildlife, both on land and in our oceans. Nature is no longer able to absorb the impact of our actions.
This Ramadan, I will be looking at how to reduce my personal impact on the planet, and that of those around me, whether it’s my family, the community I live in or the readers of this article. I pledge to follow Sir David’s four-step plan to make effective change in the time that we have left.
The plan is this: first, to reduce our use of fossil fuels and switch to reusable energy; second, to reduce our consumption of meat and make more sustainable food choices; third, to play our part in protecting the oceans, so that they can offer a liveable habitat and replenish their fish stocks, providing enough for us all to eat forever; fourth, and finally, to support wildlife, wherever we are.
At the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, we are proud to have started this journey last year, with the help of our team’s sustainability champion, Jenny, to whom I’d like to say a personal thank you. We made the event 100 per cent free of single-use plastic. We installed a filtered water fountain, where visitors could refill reusable bottles for free over the festival’s nine-day run. This meant that we saved 11,000 plastic bottles and almost 170,000kg of carbon dioxide.
If we were able to do that in only nine days at one event, imagine what we could do if every single person made a couple of different choices in their daily lives. For me, this Ramadan will be about doing my bit to protect our planet before it’s too late. Will you join me?
Credit to The National (click here to see the full article).
Written by Ahlam Bolooki
Ahlam discovered her love for books when she was 18 years old though she grew up with her mother taking her to the Sharjah Book Fair each year and was always encouraged to read. The book that transformed Ahlam into a reader was Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera which eventually encouraged Ahlam to read non-fiction struggles of women. Later, she discovered poetry leading her to attend workshops at New York City’s Gotham Writer’s Center, where she studied poetry for several months but also experimented with memoirs, fiction, scripts, you name it! Ahlam finds it difficult to choose a favourite genre as it’s always ever changing and she’s still in the midst of discovering her literary self. She’s catching up on all the gems she missed as a child such as ‘The Little Prince’ and ‘The Giving Tree’, but has also developed a new appetite for Crime Fiction so who knows what’s next?