Fasting or Feasting

KO File Photo By Abid Bhat

WITH the month of Ramadan set to dawn, Muslims are anticipating the mercy and blessings of Allah to descend in abundance, there is a simultaneous worry of sorts that grips people in general and Muslims in particular with the onset of this month – exorbitant rates, black marketing, inflation and skyrocketing of prices. It is often seen in the month of Ramadan that South Asian countries, the Muslim majority countries in particular, witness the ripples of surcharging, shortage, money minting and excessive profit gains. “It is common that during the festive seasons, prices of daily commodities, from onion to beef, cosmetics and accessories, clothing items etc rise exceptionally taking these out of the reach of lower-middle income groups of people. We observe this trend the most in the month of Ramadan. Even the government struggles to control the sky-rocketing prices. We often generalise that this is due to maleficent intentions of merchants and businessmen who try to make more profit during this month. Although this explanation seems fit to the general eye, there exist other explanations may sound more logical”. This is one of the many issues faced by people in the holy month of Ramadan forcing people to economic bottlenecking, food insecurity and people’s inability to meet their basic ends. But this lack of access to basic amenities by the majoritarian poor population is followed by the ironic trend  of food wastage in Ramadan and the amount of food wasted is both unprecedented and enough to cater to the needs of the starving lot. “A major factor in the amount of food waste being produced is the mindset of diners, who expect nothing less than a tantalizing feast-like iftar – the meal taken by Muslims after sunset to break their daily fast during Ramadan. But much of this food goes uneaten. Around 25-50% of the food prepared in the Arab world during Ramadan is wasted, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s ‘The State of Food Waste in West Asia’ 2021” report. 

The basic problem with our understanding of Ramadan is to think of it as the month of feasting instead of fasting. While we continue to observe the scruples of Shariah during the day, our Suhoor and iftars are literally the singular events of gluttony, hyper-consumerism and acrobatics of show off and the race of spendthrift to leave others behind. Lavish iftar parties being thrown open and the means and methods followed are very much antithetical to the spirit Ramadan, inverting its purpose and creating an opposite binary. These praxis need to be amended to bring them in accordance with the spirit of Ramadan and the larger vision of Islam to avert the ills being incurred and to make Ramadan what has been truly defined as the month of blessings, healing and balance. The fact needs to be emphasised that our excess at Suhoor and iftar not only undo the physical and medical benefits of Ramadan earned during the day but these activities in excess also undo the spiritual merits of fasting and instead of bringing us any good heighten the chances of being caught in divine wrath for our conduct and unbridled consumption.

The problem of inflation and scarcity of goods and food items pitched up above also bounces back on the face of people on deeper scrutiny. It is observed that the demand for food items and other goods soars up and the items which are otherwise scarcely used are seen to be in huge demand during the month of Ramadan. This reinforces our premise that people, instead of harvesting the month of Ramadan for physical and spiritual control, let themselves loose upon eatables and the daily food intake and the diversity of food items increases without reason and rhyme. This is not to say that people aren’t allowed to eat whatever is permissible, but to caution ourselves and the readers of the threat of gluttony and stomach worship in an otherwise month of fasting. This month, as scholars have pointed out, raises our consciousness to the plight and misery of those who can’t otherwise afford two square meals a day. But can this end be achieved when we indulge in gluttony and excess at dawn and the time of fast breaking at dusk? What petrifies religion is the danger of transformation of living religious practices into rituals lacking meaning and rationale – and in this case with Ramadan, the threat of ossifying a living religious praxis into a dead ritual is at hand. What is needed is to reclaim Ramadan, consciously and conscientiously and to shred away the false accretions attached to it to realise its  spirit and to wake up to its true call. 

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

  • The author is a Srinagar based columnist 

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Amir Suhail Wani

The author is a writer and columnist

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