The Other Side of Ramadan

Today is the first day of Ramadan, and probably a rare occasion where most — if not all — Muslim countries miraculously agreed that it would be on the 1st of August (correct me if I am wrong), so let’s hope it ends on the same date as well. At least for the first time ever, I would not have to hear sarcastic comments from a Westerner fresh off the boat regarding the whole moon calculation thing.

Indian Muslim vendor separates the seeds of a pomegranate.
An Indian Muslim vendor separates the seeds of a pomegranate at a roadside stall in preparation for Muslims breaking their fast at sundown in Mumbai, India on August 19, 2010. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

There are plenty of wonderful blog posts on Ramadan, including this one from last year by Mich and an updated version for this year here. Practically any news outlet is now talking about Ramadan, in any way or another, and marketing it as a product.

This is my concern.

Everywhere you will read something along the lines of “Ramadan is a time of reflection” and “it is a time of prayers, feeling for the poor, meditation, and sharing” among other things. Then in the next line you would find ill-crafted text that goes “Join us at our luxurious and exclusive Ramadan tent with open buffet for only AED 400 per person”. Then a little asterisk leads you to the fine print which mentions that your AED 400 does not include your shisha and the 15% tax.


In case you are interested, this is an image of what feeding the poor is like, just in case the exclusive tent does not have charity envelopes for you to donate in:

A child in Kabul, Afghanistan
A child sits with a plate of food that was distributed as part of the holy month of Ramadan, at a refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

Here’s a list of things I do not like about how Ramadan is being practised these days (generally as well as locally):

- Marketing products you hardly ever needed with plasters boasting a Ramadan discount or something along the lines of “in the spirit of Ramadan”.

- The endless barrage of TV soaps and shows, most of which are pointless and have nothing to do with the “Ramadan spirit” or “time of reflection and meditation”. Unless you’re a mosquito that can’t avoid anything glowing, that’s hardly meditation.

- Speaking of glowing, what’s with the jewellery industry crafting gold and diamond necklaces specifically for Ramadan? Is it a status symbol that I wear a ridiculously priced (and usually terribly designed) piece of jewellery that shows my religious support?

- People storming markets and grocery stores as though they have heard that there is no more oil in the world to transport anything further and what you have is all what you would eat till you die from starvation. People should be eating less during Ramadan — you’re shaving off more than half of the day fasting — yet somehow gluttony has become synonymous with Ramadan.

- Ill-tempered people. Okay I understand you have not had your coffee and you have not had your cigarette. That’s the point of fasting: testing your temper and tolerance. Fasting is not an excuse for you to be bad tempered. It is a motive for you to control yourself. I can understand some random bursts here and there — we are human, after all — but to still be a crazed lunatic as Ramadan comes to a close means you have missed the point.

- Speaking of lunatics: people driving. I do not need to elaborate.

- What pisses me off the most: Non-fasting people should not eat and/or drink in front or close to those who fast “to protect their feelings”. I appreciate your concern but Muslims should toughen up and stop victimising themselves with fasting excuses. Again, it’s testing your temptation. If you’re not fasting, you should be able to eat and drink as you please. If you don’t want to out of respect, that’s your choice, but having a law that can put you in jail because of eating and drinking in public is uncalled for. In malls, you see food outlets closed with very few open and barricaded to hide those who are eating. Seriously? My friends in Lebanon and Syria thankfully report otherwise.

I can go on and on but that would bore you. So if you have any other gripes at how people practise Ramadan, please mention it in the comments.