Thursday, May 26, 2016
“Iftar or breaking fast traditionally in the home with family members or in a mosque in a spiritual environment, has been turned into a ‘feast with a 100-dish spread’ and for ‘corporate entertainment’. Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with only three dates.”
The President of the Consumers’ Association of Penang, S M Mohamed Idris said this in his article, published on FMT, a few days ago. His words left me feeling uneasy. I can barely remember the last time I broke my fast with dates.
In this modern age, commercialising culture and religion is common – from getting giddy over presents under Christmas trees to shopping for new carpets, curtains and kitchenware every Ramadan – our traditions and beliefs have shifted somewhat.
Growing up in a traditional Muslim family, I was taught the “Islamic” way to fulfil my Ramadan obligations – it was compulsory to wake up in the wee hours of the morning for sahur, consume homemade dishes for iftar and perform prayers after iftar. We never really did anything out of the ordinary for Ramadan – it was usually a simple meal with extra fruits and some kuih.
The only thing extraordinary I can think of was having dinner together – no more sitcoms at 7pm for the kids and no more 8pm Buletin Utama for dad. Everyone had to be seated at the dining table at the sound of azan – that was under mom’s strict orders which no one dared disobey.
Living far from my parents and raising my own family today, I soon realised that traditions I grew up with did not fit so well in my “new” world. Today, when the TV announces the azan, my kids and I gather around our iftar table with “non-homemade” scrumptious favourites bought from the Ramadan bazaar. Instead of dates passed around to end our fast, Coke does it for us. A “glug, glug” followed by a long “aaaaaaah”, marks the official end of our fast.
But it doesn’t just end there. Iftar at my home also means dinner in front of the TV. We fill our plates with food, find a comfortable spot on our couch and with TV remote in hand, dig in. Technically, it is still a family dinner and we still talk to each other and laugh together but it is a lot more fun the way we do it than staring at each other’s faces across the table as we munch away.
Over the weekend, we treat ourselves to one of the many Ramadan feasts offered by restaurants and hotels. To call this an extravagance and an utter waste of money would be wrong in my opinion as I am entitled to grant myself and my children some degree of luxury as a reward for my hard work as the family’s provider.
The thing is, while SM Mohamed Idris spoke about reviving the Islamic spirit, my children and I are trying to create our own traditions, still very much grounded in Islam. Instead of expecting my children to emulate the Prophet Muhammad by breaking fast with three dates, I want to help my children get excited about Ramadan. Surely after a long day of struggling with thirst and hunger, they are entitled to break fast in their preferred way.
As a new generation, my children need something they can relate to, something that speaks to them. If that means they prefer to have some Coke instead of water or a RM19.90 jar of almond butter cookies instead of dates – then so be it. No amount of Coke, cookies, television or hotel feasts can deter a Muslim’s faith unless they do not have strong faith to begin with.
What matters is where you draw the line.
Yes, Ramadan is truly a sacred month. However, it is our duty as Muslims to draw a line when it comes to indulging in feasts and mindless spending. The commercialisation of Ramadan would not be an issue if Muslims were capable of abstaining and keeping our senses under control. If we need special provisions to ban and prohibit things that promote extravagance in order to keep the syaitan within us chained, where is our Taqwa?
Mind you, fasting is also an exercise to keep our desires in check. If we are incapable of that, we have failed the test of Ramadan. In other words, the commercialisation of Ramadan is actually doing Muslims a favour – it requires us to put in more effort to rein in our lusts and desires.
The truth is, the commercialisation of Ramadan may be a subtle process of the secularisation of our beliefs and culture. However, commercialisation is not the termite that is silently eating away at our pillars of iman. It is our own incapability to understand what it means to be a Muslim and to practice our religion in this modern age. With all due respect, calls to safeguard Muslims by issuing fatwas prohibiting the exploitation of Ramadan as suggested by S M Mohamed Idris, the way I see it, only shows how weak we are as Muslims.
The rhetorical question that begs to be asked is, if Islam is against the commercialisation of religion, what about Islamic banking? What about luxurious Haj packages? Islam does not teach us this. But then again, Islam does not teach us many other things which Muslims seem to be religiously following these days.
With Ramadan a week away, let us embrace the holy month for what it truly represents. Ramadan is a month of joy. It’s a month of sluggish days with little bowel movement. It’s a month when food never tasted better. Ramadan is when the evenings are lively and cheerful. It’s when everyone looks a bit grumpy waking up in the wee hours of the morning for sahur. Companies, marketers and the entertainment industry may use Ramadan for potential profit but Ramadan will never be only about lavish feasts and over-spending.
Ramadan is and will always be about bringing family and friends together and being genuinely thankful for a full tummy.
Happy Ramadan, Malaysia!
PETALING JAYA: The Automated Awareness Safety System (Awas) is one step nearer to implementation after the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament today.
Awas is a combination of the Automated Enforcement System (AES) and the Demerit Points System (Kejara).
The Star Online reported Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi as saying in Parliament that previous AES summons were still valid but that the ministry would propose that a discount of RM100 to RM150 be given.
Abdul Aziz also said the AES cameras at 14 locations would continue to operate as usual.
AES cameras will be installed in stages at other accident-prone areas along highways, federal roads and intersections.
Responding to a query, the ministry will have a system where traffic offenders can check their demerit points online.
Under the Kejara system, drivers who accumulate 60 demerit points will have their driving licences revoked.
Those with 40 points will have their licences suspended.
Motorists who beat the lights and cut double lines will receive four demerit points.