How tech is enabling new Ramadan traditions beyond Zoom iftars

UAE organisations have made many options available for deepening knowledge and faith – from a healthy social distance

epa08385093 A Pakistani Muslim boy reads verses from the holy Koran at a Mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan amid lockdown of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  province due to the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 disease pandemic, in Peshawar, Pakistan, 26 April 2020. Muslims around the world celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, by praying during the night time and abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual acts during the period between sunrise and sunset. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and it is believed that the revelation of the first verse in Koran was during its last 10 nights.  EPA/BILAWAL ARBAB
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Technology is enabling new Ramadan traditions beyond breaking the fast with friends and family on Zoom, with many UAE organisations offering programmes to deepen religious knowledge and faith during an unprecedented time.

Some 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide are observing the holy month amid strict social distancing restrictions to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

Almir Smajlovic, a volunteer khateeb, the reader of the sermon, and a speaker on religious issues in Dubai, said Muslims around the world turn to learning about their faith during Ramadan.

He said technology has enabled people to continue their journey of learning about their faith, even as the coronavirus pandemic has meant in-person lectures or prayers are not possible this month.

"There are so many reminders for people through webinars, lectures or online sessions. There are things geared towards people of all ages," said Mr Smajlovic.

During these testing times, the tradition of reflection and knowledge sharing continues, thanks to digital and emerging technologies

He advised people to research, listen to question and answer sessions, and increase their knowledge.

Dubai Future Academy, an initiative of the Dubai Future Foundation, has moved online for its Ramadan Pioneer Series, now in its third year, under the title ‘Life after the coronavirus (Covid-19)’. The interactive series is convening futurists and experts to test and share their ideas on how to tackle the pandemic, while allowing the public to interact with pioneers in the UAE and globally.

“During these testing times, the tradition of reflection and knowledge sharing continues, thanks to digital and emerging technologies – a powerful reminder of just how connected we are to one another,” Saeed Al Gergawi, head of Dubai Future Academy, said.

Speakers range from ministers and academics including Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, chief executive of Alliances for Global Sustainability, Sara Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, and Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, secretary general at the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi.

Or worshippers can tune in to NYU Abu Dhabi Institute’s past talks, which it posted on YouTube just in time for Ramadan “in the spirit of fraternity”.  Several lectures delve deeper into Islamic tradition, Arabic philosophy or a better understanding of the natural world.

Ahmed Hamed, a spokesperson at Al Manar Centre, a nonprofit in Dubai, said technology had ensured they could bring together speakers from different corners of the globe for lectures.

The centre will organise sessions on Zoom through Ramadan on weekends where scholars will discuss messages of hope and positivity.

While they have reached 60,000 viewers in the first weekend, they aim to reach 200,000 people by the end of the month.

Al Salam Islamic Centre, a private, non-profit Islamic Centre for women based in Dubai, is running several e-learning courses aimed at women.

"With the help and favour of God, technology has kept the classes possible and people are interested in the online lessons,” a spokesperson at Al Salam Islamic Centre said.

The centre has organised a programme called ‘Ramadan with Joy’ with classes held on different topics such as the names of Allah, the Quran and prayers every day of the week.

Sessions are held in Arabic and in English, with students having the option of live or recorded lessons.

"Technology has helped us as people across the world, even former students who may have moved out of Dubai, have come closer through these channels.

"There is a lot of bonding and sisterhood, with people coming together through these mediums."