Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
IT was narrated in a Hadith that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said: “Whoever does not refrain from making a false statement and acting upon it, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drink.” Here, zour (falsehood) is all acts that are devoid of truth. Telling lies and cheating are zour and hence believers are asked not to engage in any activity that involves zour.
The simple implication of fasting is to refrain from some acts such as eating and drinking. However, the Hadith says that the real spirit of fasting is not limited only to these acts but transcends beyond these to a superior spiritual level that enables the believers to obtain piety and fear of God through staying away from everything forbidden by Him. The Holy Qur’an speaks about the objective behind making Ramadan fasting an obligatory ritual. “O, you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness.” This means that anyone’s fasting that does not lead to piety and fear of God and prevent him or her from doing forbidden thing would not be counted as a perfect one.
One of the Islamic scholars said: “If you observe fasting, then it should be that you are fasting from hearing and seeing evils and telling lies, besides not doing any harm to your servant. As for fasting, it has some manners, respect and dignity, and that should be adhered to and maintained while staying away from everything that comes in the purview of falsehood.”
If we examine the way with which we receive the holy month, we find that we welcome Ramadan with joy and pleasure along with prayers to Almighty Allah beseeching Him to reward us for our fasting and prayers. At the same time, we engage in a shopping spree buying huge quantities of foodstuff, and perhaps this reaches the level of extravagance that is forbidden in Islam. The Qur’an said: “Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of devils.”
Excessive consumption has largely become a phenomenon in the holy month of Ramadan. It is really a month for worship with fasting, more prayers and supplications, together with showing sympathy and lending a helping hand to the poor and needy. However, for many it has become a month of shopping, excessive consumption of food and drink to the point of exhaustion and indigestion. This forces some people to frequent hospitals in order to receive treatment for health disorders caused by over-eating. At hospitals, these people may encounter some patients who are seeking treatment for malnutrition and anemia, caused by their poverty and lack of nutritious food. This shows that those who receive treatment for over-eating after breaking their fasting did not benefit from the true spirit and wisdom of fasting that is helping the poor and needy after showing solidarity with them through experiencing hunger and thirst.
The negative phenomena that accompany the holy month include excessive accumulation of foodstuff and the subsequent wasting of food and piling up of garbage boxes with leftovers. The excessive consumption of food also leads to laziness and inactivity not only in performing worship but also in doing duties. There are many instances where an employee, who is fasting, comes late at office or becomes absent from duty, and thus fails to serve the people and deprive them of their rights. When people complain about this, this employee tells them: ‘Ramadan Kareem,’ as if Ramadan has come to punish these people. Such employees give excuses for dereliction of their duty by blaming Ramadan for it. This phenomenon is obvious at some government offices or hospitals.
I would like to share with readers the experience of one of my friends. He got appointment to consult a doctor at a hospital at 1 p.m. The hospital staff told him to report at the hospital at least 15 minutes before the time of appointment. Though he reached on time, the doctor was not there and he came late by one hour. When my friend expressed his displeasure over this, the doctor’s reply was that “now it is Ramadan.” As a man observing fasting, the only option in front of my friend was not to have an outburst of anger but instead to keep patience.
In a Hadith, narrated by Abu Hurairah, Prophet (PBUH) said: “Fasting is a shield. If someone intends to fight against him or scold him, let him just say ‘I am fasting. I am fasting.’ The repetition of the word ‘I am fasting’ would make the rival party feel ashamed of making a quarrel with you or scolding you.”
Those who are fasting but not ready to observe its true spirit with stopping falsehood in his words or deeds should realize the warning given by the Prophet (PBUH), who said: “It may be that all a fasting person gets from his fasting is hunger and thirst, and it may be that all a person who prays at night gets from his prayer is sleeplessness.”
Similarly, we see that some housewives sleep until evening but at the same time insisting their maidservants to wake up early and do a lot of work without giving her enough time to take rest.
How can we justify such negativities if we observe the fasting in Ramadan after embracing the month as the best ever occasion for worship, self-discipline and seeking forgiveness?
— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org