08/15/2009 06:40 PM
Dubai: The middle of Sha'aban is celebrated in the emirates as 'Haq Al Laila' and is known by other names in various Arab and Gulf states.
Though it is has many names, this night's purpose remains the same, that of receiving or heralding the month of Ramadan.
According to a Hadith (Saying) of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH): "When the night of the middle of Sha'aban comes, Allah says: 'Is there anyone pleading for forgiveness that I might forgive him? Is there anyone asking for sustenance that I may feed him? Is there anyone who desires anything so I may grant it to him?
The 15th of Sha'aban is considered a most auspicious night.
In the emirates, children are informed well in advance of the coming of Ramadan and of their duties of fasting during the month.
Children go around the neighbourhood, carrying a small bag made especially for the occasion. They knock on doors and chant 'Haq Al Laila', which says: "Give us, and may God give you back, and grant you your wish to go to his Holy House in Makkah".
The neighbours then give the children sweets and nuts.
'Haq Al Laila' is one of the most important folk customs in the UAE, which is an opportunity for children to learn the meaning of charity. Those who receive sweets and nuts in turn give some of the treats to less fortunate children.
At the end of the night, the children count their collected sweets and praise the owner of the house, who gave them the greatest quantity.
In the past, preparing for this night required buying various kinds of nuts and sweets to be distributed to the children.
Emirati Ghaia Al Marzouqi, 49, said: "The middle of Sha'aban has a joyful impact on us and on our kids. I remember when we used to gather and walk as groups, both boys and girls, knocking on the doors of our neighbours. We used to get our beautiful bags filled with various types of the candy, nuts, chewing gum, small juice cartons and other yummy stuff."
Asked what kind of bags they used to carry, she replied, "They were hand-made, usually by mom, grandma or relatives. As I recall, they had various colours and were slightly different in size, but they were strong enough to carry all our sweets."
Her nine-year-old daughter, Maitha, said her mother buys new things for the family on the occasion. "We visit our relatives and friends and we buy various types of candies."
Her mother said, "This is part of our heritage. I believe families encourage their children to keep such a tradition alive. The best example is what we see every year and how kids celebrate the middle of Sha'aban walking in various districts and neighbourhoods.