Dear Ali: When I leave the UAE someday I would like to take a prayer carpet with me to show my family and friends. I'm thinking I would like to hang it on the wall. Is this proper, do you think? In no way do I wish to show any disrespect to anyone's religion even after I've returned home. FL, UAE
Dear FL: It all depends on context. It's about how and where you display it, and what type of prayer carpet it is.
There are ones that have God's name or the holy mosque of Kaa'ba or Jerusalem on them. Some have Islamic and arabesque designs and some don't have any Islamic symbols. So hanging the last one wouldn't lead most people to react negatively, and it can pass as a regular carpet. But the ones with the Islamic symbols are where we have to be careful.
No one can stop you from buying a prayer carpet, and we are aware many people may want one for the floor or to hang. Is it wrong from an Islamic point of view? There is no one solid answer, because it all depends on the context of what the piece is, where it will be displayed and how it will be handled. In the Emirates I know many expat friends who purchase a holy Quran and a prayer carpet and display them in their living room or on a bookshelf. Some Muslims believe it’s fine to own such pieces because there could be a chance that you will start to embrace Islam, and having a prayer carpet or a translated holy Quran will help to raise awareness about our faith.
Just make sure you handle these pieces the right way - the holy Quran must always be on top of a bookshelf, and no other books or object should be placed on it. Also, you should not use the prayer carpet for anything but praying.
Other Muslims will object to non-Muslims owning a prayer carpet if your house has items that are forbidden in Islam, such as alcohol, pork, pornography or even loud music.
Some Muslims might be pleased and proud that you have a prayer carpet, as it conveys your awareness and appreciation of Islam. But after a while, they might associate this with other pieces you have, such as a Buddha statue or whatever else you display, and their feelings might change.
Dear Ali: I am a Muslim from Chicago and we pay close attention to where our meat comes from to ensure it is dabeeha (slaughtered under Islamic law) halal. The UAE being a Muslim country, is all meat here halal, including in restaurants? What about fast food? MR, Abu Dhabi
Dear MR: Alhamdulilah, all the meat sold in the UAE, the Gulf and generally in all other Muslim countries is halal. Government authorities monitor the slaughtering of our meat and chicken, and, yes, even junk food and other processed foods are made and sold in the halal way. All animals are slaughtered in a manner that conforms to Islamic law. Even meat from foreign fast-food chains that comes into to the country is expected to be halal, and all require authenticity certificates proving so. We rest assured that unless specifically stated, all the meat we eat in our country is halal.
Ali: What is the most unexplored island in the UAE that could also be good for couples? AS Abu Dhabi
Dear AS: Oh my, this came at the perfect time. I just came back from one of the most inspiring and emotional trips of my life. I went to a destination unlike any other in the region: it’s a natural island and has been blessed by Sheikh Zayed, the nation’s father, walk on it sands. He turned it into one of the world’s largest nature reserves for precious gazelles and other wildlife. It’s the one and only Sir Bani Yas Island. I was visiting for work and couldn’t help but explore the island on a game drive. The Desert Island Resort and Spa management have put together unique tours for visitors.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that probably every Emirati wants to visit the island, and not it has a great hotel and activities. They want to see a place that has been guided by Sheikh Zayed’s great environmental vision, which was to create a better habitat for the animals. A long time ago, when we were kids, we used to only see a couple of pictures and read a few paragraphs on the island in geography class. Today, I can tell you more than half of the Emirati population has never been there.
But now, it’s open to the public, so it’s about time everyone experienced Sheikh Zayed’s great environmental legacy. Without a doubt it is one of my top places to visit in the country and I recommend it. You can stay at the new luxury Desert Islands Resort, managed by Anantara (inquire about bookings at www.desertislands.anatara.com)
The island is on the west coast of Abu Dhabi, away from city noise. It can be reached by plane or by driving to Jebel Dhanna and taking a 15-minute boat trip. Caring guides will greet you with smiles at the harbor before checking you in to the hotel.
It takes a special individual to both enhance a people’s quality of life and protect local wildlife. Sheikh Zayed, to my mind a legend, did this. Therefore, I would personally call this island the Legend Island. Also, remember it’s a nature preserve, so animals have the right of way on all roads.
Dear Ali: I was recently lucky enough to witness the Friday midday prayer with more than a thousand people praying together in the streets. It actually gave me goose pimples. If I wanted to photograph this scene, should I ask permission from somebody? MP, Abu Dhabi
Dear MP: It always makes me feel warm when non-Muslims share their kind feelings about our Islamic practices, especially those who ask for permission because they think something could offend us; I can understand how that many people praying at once can be a real head-turner.
However, privacy is highly valued in our collective society and we have concerns about having our pictures taken, especially of our women or when we are praying.
We always appreciate it when people make an effort to respect and understand our customs, so if you ask us sincerely, we will happily answer and will probably approve.
The first problem you might encounter if you want to take a picture of a Muslim praying is gaining access to a mosque. One solution to this might be to visit the Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi (aka the Sheikh Zayed Mosque), which welcomes visitors every day from 9am until noon and allows cameras. Even then you will need to get permission if there is anyone who you want to photograph.
I understand the picture of a thousand Muslims praying together on a Friday at noon might speak a thousand words to you.
This is more of an outdoor picture, but I would advise you to try to shoot the photo from a distance so that you don't get in the way of any of the worshippers. Hopefully, no one will notice you, so nobody will be offended or uncomfortable. If anybody asks, you can tell them the picture is for your private collection only. It's all about intentions, and if this is your intention then you have our blessings.
We can't claim we don't allow pictures of us praying since there are plenty of stock images online. As long as people use them for the right reasons, then we are always happy to be photographed. Thanks again for considering our privacy.
Dear Ali: I've noticed women wearing different styles of abaya - not just with unique decorations but different cuts and lengths, too. Is there a "right" way to wear an abaya? SE, Al Ain
Dear SE: We humans are strange creatures, aren't we? You'd think if everyone wears the same black covering (or white robe), that fashion would be the last thing on people's minds. But, no, we judge each other on the way we wear that same garment. The same is true of school uniforms. Even if all children are given the same white shirt and grey trousers they will find a way to express themselves through a rolled-up sleeve or a tapered leg.
The UAE has grown quickly and with modernization has come a fascination with fashion. Some Emiratis are uncomfortable with these new ideas while others look down at the conservative people as being out of touch. I understand how my sisters grew tired of expats assuming that we can't wear nice clothes. Emirati women are serious about fashion and decided to "own" the abaya by adding pleats, cuts, colours - the list is endless. Designers from around the world have developed their own take on the plain black garment, making it a proud symbol of the Middle East.
That said, I have heard many expats say something along the lines of: "What a beautiful abaya". These comments are meant as compliments, but a beautiful abaya is the opposite of the intention of the garment.
Every time I go to the mall and see embellished abayas, it seems these women are screaming: "Look at me!" I don't want to be viewed a fuddy-duddy, but it just seems to go against our religion's message of modesty.
So yes, there is a "right" way to wear an abaya. There are differences among Gulf countries, but in general it shouldn't cling to the body or have jewels or bright-coloured flowers down the sleeves. Our sisters are expected to also wear concealing clothes underneath the abaya, in keeping with our values. Just like books, I know many Emirati women and men judge Emirati women based on their cover.
Dear Ali: Should I not admit that I'm an atheist if asked by Emiratis or my high-school students? AK, Abu Dhabi
Dear AK: Teaching high-school students should be interesting, as they will know quite a bit more about the beliefs and practices of Islam. Not to mention all those hormones! The UAE has more than 200 nationalities, representing several faiths, or in your case, atheism.
As Muslims, we respect all people, but we believe there are only three "real" religions:
Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Take some time to-gauge our culture before you wade into this subject. Our teachers always encouraged us to pray, learn more about religion and give extra care to the subject of faith whenever it was raised. Regardless of your beliefs, you may want to earn the trust of your class by starting with "asalaam alaikom". If you listen to your students speaking about Islam, it could be a great way to pick up clues on how they feel about other ideas and faiths. Some might be aghast at the idea of not believing in a higher power; others might have encountered atheists in their travels.
I would avoid the subject at school, where we are trying to teach our children Islamic lessons. Parents are sending their children to school to learn about various subjects; however, in the back of their mind, they know the whole school is aware of the Islamic values their children should be raised with and taught about. Most of the time our children will find it hard to believe that somebody doesn't believe in Allah or God, so I would avoid speaking about my beliefs if I didn't believe in God. It could be an issue if one student were to tell the principal or a parent about this teacher who doesn't believe in God. You could easily be misunderstood.
However, if you are out with Emirati friends and the subject comes up, it wouldn't hurt to explain your beliefs, especially if it is in a social setting, such as a cafe. Your friends might not have met an atheist and find it interesting. Then again they might not: religion can always be a touchy conversation.
Dear Ali: In the United States, it's considered friendly for a woman to give a small smile or brief nod to acknowledge a passing stranger. Would people think me too "open" in did the same here? If I catch someone's eye and do nothing, I fear I might appear aloof or disrespectful. MG, Abu Dhabi
Dear MG: Smiling is completely fine and very much respected in our Muslim society. In fact, you receive credit for smiling at a child or at a passer-by because God appreciates it when people smile at each other. However, it is not recommended to smile at strangers from the opposite gender, especially locals, as it could be misread.
Like many things here, though, it depends on the context and the place: how you dress, how old you are, where you are at the time and whether or not your smile looks merely friendly or more like "Hey, baby".
In Abu Dhabi, a strange woman might pass me and might have a friendly look on her face or decide to smile. If it's obvious she is an expat, then I understand that smiling is her custom and I might feel comfortable smiling back if I'm not with another Emirati who might misunderstand. If a Muslim woman is dressed conservatively and she smiles at me, then anyone who is with her will look at her as if to ask: "You know him?" Which is fine if she is a colleague or friend, but if not it would be considered shady.
See, this is where we are different: we are not used to smiling at strangers of the opposite sex. If it's from our own gender, we can do whatever we want: smile, shake hands and chitchat freely. But if I smiled at every woman I saw, I'm sure I would end up with a broken hand or nose, because someone's husband or brother would pop out of nowhere and defend his pride. I know it sounds funny, but to answer your good question, I would say, take it as it comes. If a local man in a khandoura smiles back, then there's nothing to worry about, but if someone doesn't smile back, don't take it personally.
The following are the documents needed in order to get good behavior and clearance certificate for police department:
1- A letter from the company requesting the police to issue the good behavior and clearance certificate.
2- Passport copy with copy of residence or valid visa
3- Two Personal Photos
4- Fees (102 DHS for urgent application) (67dhs for Empost applications). In the urgent applications, certificate is issued within 24 hours from application date while through Empost, the certificate takes 3-5 days to be received.
The place where to apply for the certificate is located behind Carrefour (Airport Road Branch), Police Station of Sh. Zayed Sport City.
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