The month-long period of fasting is once again around the corner. From sunrise to sunset, almost every devout Muslim, save one who are sick or travelling, is expected to fast. The month of Ramadan is considered one of the holiest months in the Muslim calendar as the most important incident in the history of the religion, the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, took place in the last 10 days of this month. It is mentioned too, that charity given in this month and good deeds conducted, in addition to the acts of abstinence and fasting, will multiply in favour of the initiator.
Such a jackpot month for anyone who wishes to earn brownie points from Allah, right? Well, we seem to enjoy customising our own blessing package. If religion is a moral code to live by, we may have added a clause or two of our own – we wish to multiply our wardrobe and overcompensate for the lack of food through the day, well into the night.
Living in the age of customised marketing, service providers have sniffed out some choice behaviour and converted it into their personal coin minting machine. Hunger makes you think you can eat much more than you actually can – so bigger platters appear on Facebook pages, making you hungry from midday and subconsciously forcing you into buying more food than necessary.
Think about the unlimited pizza offers and all you can drink pitchers of soft drinks – most people cannot eat as much pizza or drink as much soda as they pay for, at least without forcing it. As commercialism would have it, the hunger we feel is psychologically maximised to an extent where money mongers can milk it to the best of their advantage. Eating so much after fasting the entire day isn’t just extra work for your tummy but also makes you feel lethargic and fatigued. Ever wondered why the Prophet (S. A) may have chosen to break his fast simply with a date and some water? It has some science behind it. Dates are a superfood that give your body instant energy that can last for up to three hours. It doesn’t fill you up unnecessarily or make you feel so tired that you do not have the energy to recite Salah.
Iftar and even Sehri parties are common nowadays. And where there are parties, there is status quo. The latest fashion trends must be routinely followed, captured on Instagram and put up on social sites within minutes. Self-worth would then be measured by the number of views or likes on the pictures. Food too must be Instagram worthy and therefore, in most cases, needlessly expensive.
Now think about the entire concept of abstinence. It literally means to refrain – not just from food and drink, but from cursing, lying, cheating, self-harm, worldly excesses and carnal desire. But what is the point of only refraining for a few hours a day or one month in the year? While of course science has come out with the potent discovery that fasting detoxifies and alkalises our bodies, the ulterior objective is to also train people to continue the good habits learned in the month of Ramadan throughout the year. If fasts are broken with drags on a cigarette, and lessons learned through the day are forgotten by the Maghrib azaan, we still have a long way to go.
While we are hardly suggesting that eating or dressing well is wrong, (hey, we are a lifestyle magazine) is there perhaps, a line we should draw, if only to give the month of Ramadan its due respect? Ramadan teaches us to feel the pain of those who cannot find two square meals a day. Giving money is the easiest thing to do, giving of oneself, much more difficult. There are some things we can all do, without even putting in too much effort. Places like Aashic Foundation or Aashic Palliative care need volunteers. The next time you have money to spare, would you consider sharing it with the sick children there? Would you, just once a week during this month, consider giving time at a school for underprivileged children, imparting one skill that you are good at? How about starting from home and teaching your domestic help with some English or her young one some mathematics? How about packing some of that good food from the Iftar buffet for your domestic help’s sehri? Random acts of kindness can go a long way, not only in this month, but in the other months of the year. Remember, Ramadan is simply a starting step in the many number of wonderful things you are capable of doing for your society, all through the year.