Meet the UAE's Hindus who are fasting in solidarity with Muslims for Ramadan!
Chandra Shekhar, 51, said fasting strengthened his relationship with his Muslim colleagues (Image: Gulf News)
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Arun Lal grew up in a village in India where Hindus arranged iftar meals for Muslims. He was used to Hindu temples offering iftar meals and space for Maghrib prayers.
“But I realised the value of such things when I was exposed to the world and the reports on growing violence in the name of religion,” Lal, a Hindu, told Gulf News on Thursday.
He started following world news and interacting with people from many parts of the world after reaching Abu Dhabi in 2005 to work as a barber at Ruby Saloon. He felt that participating in the good practices of other religion is the best way to unite believers of various faiths.
When his colleague, Shaukath Ali, was fasting during Ramadan in 2006, Lal also joined him. After two days of initial hardships, he started enjoying the mental and physical benefits of fasting. He has been doing it every year since then without fail.
His most enriching experience of Ramadan is iftar. “When we all make arrangements for that gathering and sit together with prayers…it is a rare spiritual experience...” Lal said.
He felt his participation in Ramadan has made him closer to his Muslim colleagues and friends. “Likewise, I think if all participate in the good practices of other faiths, there won’t be any differences in the name of religions,”
His family in India also supported him. “We Hindus have no restrictions in observing any spiritual practice. That’s why Hindus welcomed all religions such as Islam and Christianity and coexisted with their believers for centuries,”
Sabin Sathyapalan, 28, an Indian electrical project engineer, was surprised to see his Muslim colleagues working under the sun during Ramadan at project sites without even taking water. “When I was feeling thirsty in scorching heat, I thought ‘how can I take water when all others don’t do so!’ So I started fasting three years ago,” Sathyapalan, a Hindu said.
This is his fourth Ramadan in the UAE. He, too, feels that his participation in Ramadan has strengthened his relationship with his colleagues, apart from personally gaining physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Chandra Shekharan, 51, an Indian administrator, said he used to fast during Ramadan in the initial years of his 22-year-long stay in the UAE. But, due to work commitments, he could not continue it.
Shekharan, also a Hindu, started fasting again three years ago along with his two Muslim roommates, Abdul Latif and Humayun Kabir. “Sometimes I wake them up for suhour and we enjoy iftar together.”
He said a small section of people from all religions create trouble because of their intolerance. “The majority of the believers of all religions are tolerant and peace-loving. By participating in the good practices of other religions, we can silence the intolerant people,” Shekharan said.
By Binsal Abdul Kader
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