Ramadan cannons keep historic tradition alivehttp://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/08/09/02/10241863.html
09/01/2008 11:54 PM | By Wafa Issa, Staff ReporterDubai: Historically, the Ramadan cannon has served as a means to announce the end of the fast at sunset. However, today it plays an important but different role, namely to keep Ramadan traditions alive.
The firing of the cannon is believed to date from the early days of Islam, when the Fatimid caliph instructed that a cannon be placed at the highest point of a city so that during Ram-adan, all Muslims would be able to hear the shot signalling the end of the fast at sunset.
In the UAE, the tradition started in Sharjah during the rule of Sultan Bin Saqr who ruled from 1803 to 1866, according to Hussain Al Badi, Director of the Emirates Centre for Heritage, History and Culture.
"The exact date when the cannon was introduced is not known, but it is common knowledge that it was used to announce the breaking of the fast at one point during the reign of Shaikh Sultan Bin Saqr," Al Badi said.
In Dubai, the cannon was introduced during the rule of Shaikh Saeed Al Maktoum (1912-1958) to unify the call for iftar.
"The imams were instructed by the Ruler not to call for iftar until they heard the firing of the cannon. The timing was determined by the Ruler upon recommendation from a group of religious scholars," said Al Badi.
In 1960 the firing of the cannon was entrusted to Dubai Police. Since then, the Ramadan cannon has remained under their supervision.
Although the Ramadan cannon is part of the tradition in most emirates, Abu Dhabi has never followed suit, according to Dr Faleh Handal, a researcher in UAE history and heritage.
Historically, military cannons were used. However, nowadays it has been replaced by a sonic cannon.
"Although today there are no practical reasons for the use of the cannon, the majority of them still exist in order to preserve our tradition.
The Ramadan cannon has become symbolic and it is an important aspect of our folklore," said Al Badi.
This year, Dubai Police have placed cannons in Al Musalla, Al Ras area, Karama Musalla and Al Safa Park to announce iftar. A crew of five, consisting of one sergeant, one traffic officer and three soldiers, are assigned to bring the cannon into the designated area.
In Sharjah, 10 cannons are being set up in Al Qaraen, Midan Al Hisn, Al Tala'a area, Buheirah Corniche and Al Hera area. The Sharjah government will also distribute meals to those attending the cannon firing this year.
Usually, crowds gather around the cannon to witness the firing as a form of celebration of the fasting month and a way to preserve traditions before going to the mosque to offer the Maghrib (sunset) prayer.
Expatriates living in Sharjah gather around the cameras during the firing to greet their relatives back home.