By Mehwish Mushtaq
The Messenger of Allah (saw) addressed his companions on the last day of Sha`ban, saying, “Oh people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a month in which is a night better than a thousand months; month in which Allah has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer (to Allah) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time, and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Heaven. It is the month of charity, and a month in which a believer’s sustenance is increased. Whoever gives food to a fasting person to break his fast shall have his sins forgiven, and he will be saved from the Fire of Hell, and he shall have the same reward as the fasting person, without his reward being diminished at all.” [Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah]
Ramazan is a month of fasting, self discipline, blessings and the joy of knowing that you are joining countless other Muslims in a spiritual union by sharing the same routine, by eating and drinking at the same time, to endure hunger for a certain period of time. It is also the month when we strive to be better people, we try to improve our actions so that our Fast can get divine acceptance.
Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness” (Q 2:183)
The spirit and ethics of Ramazan are not restricted to staying hungry alone, one may spend days upon days staying hungry or eating very little on a diet and not gain any spiritual benefit out of that.
If we concentrate on the meaning of the Ayah above, Fasting is also about piety and righteousness, and can righteousness be achieved through hunger alone? The answer is no. Righteousness means to follow a code of conduct, a set of ethics, to control one’s urge to sin, to be just to others, to be charitable, to give to the needy, being humble, patient and forgiving. It is about realizing the pain that the less fortunate people go through and taking measures to remedy their situation as best as one can, and to control one’s anger. There’s no point in staying hungry if one simply cannot be considerate of others or to help others.
Unfortunately some of us forget that, time and again we come across scenes on busy roads in the cities where people are constantly over taking each other in a rush to get home and fights break out as a result, some of them quite serious and people end up hurt. Is that really being patient, or being considerate? Is hurting others by using our tongues and hands true to the spirit of Ramazan. Those who drive through busy roads as part of their daily routine should be a little smart and keep water and dates with them in case they are worried about being stuck in traffic at iftar time. In fact they should keep extra, to help other rozadaars break their fasts too. Jumping the queues and using abusive language are common place. Our attitudes depict we are doing a favor to others by fasting instead of controlling our own desires or being down to earth.
“ Narrated by Abu Huraira in the book ‘Fasting’ of Sahih Bukhari Hadith No. 127: “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)”
Then there is the over-consumption of food, by way of which we turn fasting into feasting. It’s alright if one wants to have a scrumptious meal but is it really necessary? Doesn’t it lead us to store more in our pantries and serve more on our tables, leading to a kind of individualism and I am sorry to say but doesn’t it lead to selfishness and greed (myself being guilty of that). Where is the selflessness in that? I keep hearing people’s views about how it’s impossible to eat a lot during iftar but the over-loaded tables present a different pictures and most of that food gets wasted later. This attitude also leads to hikes in the prices of basic commodities, making it very difficult for an average salaried or poor person to afford even the basic necessities. I am not saying one shouldn’t eat nice food at all, enjoy Allah’s blessings by all means but over-loading the tables unnecessarily doesn’t come close to controlling one’s desires or being considerate at all. My personal experience says that taking light food at iftar time re-energizes the body while rich, oily food has the opposite effect.
Similarly, the blatant commercialization of Ramazan and Eid means businesses making huge profits, charging exorbitant prices leading to individuals caring for themselves only instead of sharing with the destitute. Pre-Ramazan price hike is a well known practice by businessmen without any check and balance on the government’s part, but consumers are to be blamed too, I am sorry but the majority of us have turned Ramazan into a pompous affair. It’s all about showing off what you’ve got, how one person has prayed more than the other person (good if one has, but to please Allah only) and how many suits one has bought. The spirit of giving takes a back seat and so does spirituality. Neither the businessmen nor the individuals (who consider it an obligation to break their fast at exactly the prescribed time) remember any other ethics, minting money from consumers is considered fine, selling faulty goods is ok too, and both consumers and businessmen are pretty much guilty of using lies to buy and sell. Ample ‘Qasms’ are used to haggle, (most of the time wrong) and to stress one’s point is commonplace. Unethical yes, but who cares, people think staying hungry is the only requirement.
Some of us go and buy 3 or 5 dresses each for ourselves and then we complain about inflation, while very conveniently forgetting that there are others around us who cannot afford even one new dress in a year, most of us pride ourselves in giving our ‘puranay kapray’ to the needy and that for us is the epitome of charity. But aren’t there those who cannot or do not because of their modesty step out of their houses and ask for help, is it not our duty to find out who such people are ourselves and help them and not make a show out of it?
Eve teasing is also common in the markets, and some people think it’s necessary to be present in the bazaars everyday for the sake of eye candy only. I mean come on, occupying pavements in the markets; creating discomfort for the shoppers is neither a dignified act neither is it ethical, especially when one fasts during the day to seek Allah’s rewards.
Our moral decline isn’t limited to that, Zakaat, which is an obligation and clearly mentioned in the Quran is considered burdensome by some and they don’t pay it at all, And then there are others who do pay their Zakaat but like they are doing the needy a favor, and they just can’t resist the urge to self advertise how much they have given, to every acquaintance they meet. Is it really important to hurt the self-esteem of others, God forbid but what if the roles were reversed? Yet again very few stop to think about it. Zakaat or any other form of charity should be given with the utmost humbleness, and the receiver’s dignity should take the highest priority.
Then there is the case of those workers who think they are earning Halal money, but like to slack off during Ramazan, despite the fact that office timings are adjusted during Ramazan in most Muslim countries. Ramazan does not mean a holiday, and one is supposed to work along with praying. I understand that there are those who are over-laden with work but they can try discussing re adjusting the work load with their superiors and find a mutually agreeable solution. There is no reason to slack off if one’s not doing heavy physical work.
One can only hope that people would try and make an effort to understand the true meaning of fasting and adhere to it instead of staying hungry alone. We fast in order to seek rewards from Allah yet we should take our own attitudes consideration too, will being unfair to his creatures on purpose all the time make the Almighty happy?