My Ramadan: Pupils’ questions add clarity to teacher’s fast in holy month

Samah Awad tells of her fond memories of the holy month as a child and how she tries to pass on the value of the month to non-Muslim pupils at the Abu Dhabi school where she works.

Samah Awad answers questions about Ramadan from non-Muslim pupils at the Gems American Academy school in Abu Dhabi where she works. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // The first time Samah Awad tried fasting for Ramadan she was six years old.

“No one asked me to do that, but when I saw my parents fasting, I wanted to do the same,” Mrs Awad said.

For half the day, the young Palestinian girl would refrain from eating and drinking, just as her parents had done, so she could feel closer to Allah. When she turned seven, Samah was fasting the entire day.

Mrs Awad remembers fondly Ramadan from her childhood in Lebanon.

“There are so many good memories,” said the 29-year-old. “You know, when we were kids and would be sitting and waiting for adhan to break our fast, being with family, waking up for suhur in the early morning, preparing the food with mum, you know, all of these moments are really like very good. We look forward to Ramadan because of that.”

In her role as director of Arabic studies for Gems American Academy in Abu Dhabi, Mrs Awad works with fellow Muslim staff to help the international community at the school better understand Ramadan.

Many non-Muslim pupils have questions about the holy month, she said.

“They come to ask, what does it mean and why are you fasting, how will you do this and is it possible to play music during Ramadan in my house or is it not allowed?” Mrs Awad said.

Before Ramadan, the Islamic teacher at the school meets the pupils in their homerooms to answer questions.

Staff are also offered an information session.

This is the first year that Mrs Awad will have to work during Ramadan. In the past, the holy month began while schools were closed for the summer. But she said she is looking forward to the challenge of fasting while working.

Ramadan, she said, is not just about fasting but also about bringing out the best in one’s character, even under difficult circumstances.

“It’s not only breaking from food, but also from every bad attitude,” Mrs Awad said, noting that it was a misconception to think of fasting Muslims as being irritable, or unable to complete their work.

“It lets me take into consideration every minute. I need to work, I need to finish my responsibilities,” Mrs Awad said.

“Because work, if we do it well, we get like also a good deed on it in Ramadan. We need to do it well and we need to do it as we can every day, and that way we can have more good deeds.

“The most important is to be near our God and to do our greetings and to get more good deeds in Ramadan, that is the most important thing.”