The event sought to bridge gaps between Muslims and non-Muslims in the country.
This Ramadan became a turning point in the lives of around 40 non-Muslims who took Shahada (embraced Islam) at a recent Iftar gathering organised by the Islamic Information Center (IIC) of Dubai.
Over 300 people, of which more than 100 were non-Muslims, attended the event which sought to bridge gaps between Muslims and non-Muslims in the country, by inviting the latter and converts to speak on their firsthand experience of fasting.
The event saw a number of converts, some of whom have now become Islamic scholars and preachers, take to the stage to talk about different aspects of Islam and of fasting that drew them to the religion. While Filipino convert and preacher Yahya John spoke on how fasting has been prescribed in various other scriptures; British scholar Tim Humble spoke on the real essence of fasting and on the common grounds between Islam and Christianity. Another scholar spoke on the various health benefits of fasting.
Renowned Emirati social media influencer Khalid Al Ameri hosted the event, held at the Dar Al Ber Society auditorium on Sheikh Zayed road.
Filipino expat Leylin, who took her Shahada at the event, said: “I was a Christian in search of truth. I would always find contradictions in what I read. There was not much clarity, especially on Jesus, and this is what got me to Islam. I didn’t know Muslims also believe and love Jesus so much. Islam gave me so much clarity on this topic and especially today, when scholar Humble spoke on Jesus and Islam, I couldn’t help but turn to Allah and take Shahada.”
For many converts, having firsthand experience of Islam changed their perception about the religion. “This sort of gathering brings people of different nationalities, backgrounds and religions on a single platform where you can interact and exchange ideas. They get to experience the hospitality of Islam; they also get to experience what fasting is like and here was an opportunity for them to come and find from the knowledgeable speakers, the reasons for fasting, ” said Abdullah Shetty, who embraced Islam a few years ago and now works with the IIC, Dubai.
Sharing their inspiring stories were new converts Colombian Luis Carreno and British national Darren Streete, both Dubai residents, who conveyed the same message that it is your belief in God, focus, and commitment that helps with fasting.
A lot of prizes, including 10 Samsung tabs, were given away to non-Muslims through a raffle draw and also through a quiz on Islam and about the UAE.
Kavita Bhatia, a non-Muslim who attended the event, said she has been living in the UAE for 22 years but never got a chance to attend such an event.
Another non-Muslim, Gwen, who said she was here straight from church and quite fascinated by the Shahadas people took. ” This is something I have never witnessed before and the best part is, it’s so easy and hassle-free to embrace Islam. I am someone who loves to explore different cultures and today was yet another beautiful experience, as I heard the speakers enlighten us on the various aspects of Arab culture and Islam.”
Apart from a sumptuous Emirati Iftar and dinner buffet, the event also had dedicated corners for free health checkups as well as photobooths where one can dress up in traditional Emirati clothing and take snaps, a raffle draw and a Virtual Reality (VR) experience of Makkah and Madinah.
Rashid Al Junaibi, IIC director, said: “The event was well received by the non-Muslim community in the UAE and served as a platform to interact and clear misconceptions about Islam, as well as have a firsthand experience in knowing about more about Islam. Seeing the response, we have decided to do it on an yearly basis every Ramadan, InshaAllah.”