Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Advice on Observing Ramadhan

by CAP President Haji S.M.Mohamed Idris

Ramadhan is the most sacred month in the Muslim calendar when the noble Qur’an was revealed to our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as a guidance to mankind.  It prescribes fasting as a way to attain Taqwa (God-consciousness) and the Prophet is reported to have narrated:  “Allah said, every action of the son of Adam is for him except fasting, for that is solely for Me, I give reward for it.  The fast is a shield”. It is a shield against sin and excessive love of this world.

Ramadhan is supposed to be a month of intense devotion for Muslims but for many it has become a month of feasting and wasteful spending. Islam enjoins its followers to avoid gluttony, waste and extravagance. The Prophet s.a.w. said: “The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach; for the son of Adam a few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight. If you must fill it then one-third for food, one- third for drink and one-third for air.”

Contrary to this teaching, some people eat and drink so much that they become lazy and neglect to perform their terawih prayers and even the mandatory ones. Gluttony also has serious adverse health effects – diabetes, coronary diseases, and hypertension - on those indulging in it.

On the evils of overeating Ibn al-Qayyim writes: “How many are the sins that have come about as a result of satiation and overeating. How many are the good deeds that have failed to materialize on account of it. Whoever safeguards himself from the evil of his stomach has indeed saved himself from a great evil. Satan has his greatest influence over a person with a full stomach”

Iftar, breaking fast, traditionally in the home with the family members or in the mosque in a spiritual environment, has been turned into a “feast with a 100-dish spread” in hotels and restaurants. It has been turned into a source of profits for these enterprises.

Some 5-star hotels have been advertising iftar at the cost of RM 150 per person which means a family of five would have to spend RM 750, half the monthly salary of an average worker, for breaking fast once. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. broke his fast with only three dates. The Qur’an warns against excesses: “…eat and drink without going to excesses. For Allah does not like those who go to excess.”   [Al-Araf 7: 31]

Iftar in hotels has become a promotional tool for politicians and Big Business. Elaborate feasts are held for members, clients, supporters and patrons, with hired imams conducting prayer, and nasheed music thrown in. The incongruity of conducting prayers, during the most sacred month, in a hotel where alcohol is served to its customers, and sinful activities may be taking place, is ignored.

Excessive varieties and quantities of food prepared for iftar and sahur leads to waste. A lot of food is thrown away by hotels and families into the waste dumps. Last year the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp) reported that every Ramadhan 200,000 tonnes of food go straight into the rubbish bins. This quantity of food could feed 180 million people.

Throwing away food is a sin as it deprives food for the needy ones and the future generation. It also depletes resources and contributes to environmental degradation through pollution of seas and rivers and discharge of carbon dioxide, responsible for global warming.

One of the objects of fasting is to feel the pain of hunger experienced by the poor and marginalized so that we will have empathy for them. Millions of people in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine, Myanmar, India, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing starvation and yet we are throwing away huge quantities of food in the holy month. The Qur’an condemns those who waste and squander: “Spendthrifts are the brothers of Satan, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord [Al-Isra 17: 26, 27]

Fasting is not only abstaining from food but keeping all our senses under control so that we do not commit sinful activities – gluttony, lying, back-biting, wasting time, and oppressing others. Muslims are required to spend their time in prayer, remembrance of Allah, helping the poor and needy, and practice charity. Our fast has no value unless we strive to become more spiritual. Otherwise, as the Prophet s.a.w. said:  "Many receive nothing from the fast except hunger and thirst."

Let us resolve to make this Ramadhan more meaningful and spiritually enriching. Avoid breaking fast in hotels and, instead, breakfast in your homes with your family members and friends. Doing so will provide the opportunity for parents to explain to their children the significance and inner meaning of fasting. Avoid overeating, waste and compulsive shopping. Spend more time in mosques than malls.

The rich should share their wealth with the poor and needy instead of indulging in ostentatious way of life. Use your wealth to lift the poor and marginalized out of poverty and oppression. Support worthy causes like the liberation of Palestine, including the third holiest mosque Al-Aqsa. Remember Allah’s warning on greed and accumulating wealth:

“(Woe unto him) who amasses wealth and counts it a safeguard, thinking that his wealth will make him live forever! Nay, but (in the life to come such as) he shall indeed be abandoned to crushing torment!” [Al – Humazah 104:2-4]

“You are obsessed by greed for more and more until you go down to your graves. Nay, in time you will come to understand.” [At – Takathur 102:1-3]

OPINION, 30 May 2017