How do we welcome Ramadan?

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In a hadith (saying of the Prophet), Al-Tirmidhi reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: ‘On the first night of the month of Ramadan, the devils are chained, the jinn are restrained, and the gates of Hellfire are closed and none of its gates are opened. The gates of Paradise are opened and none of its gates are closed. A caller announces: O seeker of good, come near! O seeker of evil, stop short! Allah will save them from the Hellfire and that is during every night of Ramadan.’”

Do Muslims today adhere to the approach promulgated by the Prophet (pbuh) regarding the fasting month? Do they embrace the true spirit of fasting and apply the wisdom for which fasting was made obligatory?

It is true that we abstain from eating and drinking during the daytime in Ramadan, but we turn the night of Ramadan into a day. We are hampering the interests of people in the name of fasting. However, Muslims in the early period of Islam did not put off their businesses and interests during Ramadan. On the contrary, they engaged in wars and fighting with enemies and scored victories while they were observing fasting in the month of Ramadan.

Muslims today do not seem to consider Ramadan purely as a month for worship and work, but instead have turned it into a month of eating and spending sleepless nights shopping, as well as watching movies and TV serials.

The renowned preacher and scholar Sheikh Saeed Bin Misfer Al-Qahtani, in a recent lecture, clearly illustrated the real situation of Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan. Social media circulated the content of his speech, which was delivered at a mosque in the presence of a large number of worshipers.

In his speech Sheikh Saeed said: “I noticed huge crowds of people at the vegetable markets, meat shops and outlets where food is sold. When I asked about the reason for the rush, it was told that it was because of Ramadan.” In his sarcastic style, the sheikh asked: “In Ramadan is it obligatory to fast or to eat?”

Sheikh Saeed emphasized that only fasting is obligatory in Ramadan, and that the wisdom of fasting is to preserve human health and make people aware of the need to help the poor and the destitute. But, unfortunately, people see Ramadan as the season for eating as if they had been fasting throughout the year and waiting for Ramadan to come so that they could eat. He said that this was a mistake and that it was contrary to the wisdom for which fasting was made obligatory.

What happens in Ramadan in the case of most people is that they go to the market and buy many things and return home by the time of noon prayer. Then the housewife starts cooking and preparing samosas and other items so that the household members can eat them from Maghreb until Fajr, he said.

One man asked the sheikh whether he should stop eating at the beginning or at the end of the call for Fajr prayer (adhan). This showed his eagerness to continue eating until the end of adhan. Another asked whether to break the fast at the beginning or the end of adhan for Maghreb prayer. The sheikh told both men to break their fast or start their fast with the beginning of adhan.

Sheikh Saeed then criticized the eating habits of people in Ramadan. Some people break their fast with a huge intake of food that could fill the stomach of a camel. He noted that if anyone visited the internal medicine clinics of hospitals during Ramadan, they would see a rush of patients complaining about stomach problems. The scholar pointed out that each and every person is in control of his stomach. When he eats a number of samosas, a tray full of dates and yoghurt in addition to glasses of juice, he finds it very hard to perform prayer. Then, he comes again to the dining table after prayer and starts eating once again. He would see his wife getting angry unless he ate whatever she had prepared for him. He continues eating until filling his stomach to the extent that he is almost unable to move. After this, he has to eat some desserts also prepared by his wife.

When deciding to go to the mosque to perform Taraweeh special night prayers, he looks for the mosque where the prayer is performed in a light manner, as he is unable to stand for a long time to perform prayer with so much food in his stomach.

Sheikh Saeed alerted the faithful about maintaining ideal food habits in Ramadan, saying: “I do not say that you should remain hungry without taking food, but rather I ask you to eat and drink in a moderate way without an excessive intake of food as the Holy Qur’an admonishes.”

The Prophet (pbuh) also emphasized this point when he said: “The son of Adam cannot fill a vessel worse than his stomach, as it is enough for him to take a few bites to straighten his back. If he cannot do it, then he may fill it with a third of his food, a third of his drink, and a third of his breath.”

The sheikh wonders why the believers are reluctant to put into practice this directive of the Prophet (pbuh). Most people fill all three sections of their stomach and that makes it very difficult for them to even breathe and this is contrary to the wisdom that underlies making fasting an obligatory ritual.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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