My first Ramadan: 'Fasting wasn't easy, I stumbled on day one'

Jonathan Kibira from Uganda was drawn to Islam after moving to the Emirates last year

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Born to a Muslim mother and raised by a Christian father, it was not until Jonathan Kibira moved from Uganda to the UAE that he truly found himself.

Mr Kibira, 32, moved to the Emirates in January last year to take up a job at Dubai International Airport.

It was his first opportunity to immerse himself in Islam.

His mother left the family home when he was 4 after the breakdown of her marriage and he was brought up as a Christian by his father, who had 31 other children to 11 women.

I see Ramadan as a month that draws us closer to Allah

"I was surrounded by people of many faiths but the majority were Muslims," Mr Kibira said of his move to the UAE.

“What triggered my mind to think about is it how people practise what their religion asks them to do.

“How do they follow the teachings of their religion every day? I wondered and started asking Muslim workmates.”

The Dubai resident recalled the words of a teacher during his childhood as he faced a crucial decision.

“One of my teachers back in school was a Muslim and I remembered a line he used to say about Islam,” he said.

“He told us: 'Islam is about seeking knowledge,' so I started seeking knowledge about Islam itself from different Muslim people around me.”

He embarked on a long journey of discovery about the faith before coming to the decision that he wanted to convert.

“I asked one of my flatmates about how I could convert,” he said.

His flatmate was happy for him and provided him with the number for Zayed House for Islamic Culture in Ajman.

“When I called them, they asked me several questions to make sure the decision was my own," Mr Kibira said.

In January, he became part of the global Muslim community and could look forward to his first Ramadan.

Initially, fasting during the holy month was a struggle for him.

Five hours into his first day observing Ramadan, he broke down and drank water.

“It wasn’t easy for me, I tried and I couldn’t," he said.

But after an early stumble, he remained steadfast and said fasting hours now passed easily for him.

Zayed House for Islamic Culture provided him with foods that he and 20 others use to cook meals and share throughout the holy month.

“We break our fast by drinking water and eating a banana, then we go to pray before we eat our iftar," he said.

As a good student of his faith, Mr Kibira knows he still has much to learn.

Sometimes after iftar, his colleagues teach him sections of the Quran.

“I take online classes by teachers from Zayed House for Islamic Culture,” he said.

“I learnt about the holy month, the angels, the messengers and also how to pray.”

He said Ramadan purified his heart.

Mr Kibira said no one in his family had a problem with his conversion and that his mother was happy with his decision.

“So far, I see Ramadan as a month that draws us closer to Allah, it's the month of bonus where every good deed is multiplied and that brings one closer to God," he said.

"It's about many things, like discipline, compassion, love and doing good."

Ramadan in the UAE: