Thursday, August 4, 2011

The spirit of Ramzan

The spirit of Ramzan

Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar one, Ramzan travels backward along the solar calendar, and this means that for the next 10 years it will fall during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. That will mean very hot and very long days, and distressingly short nights. I remember Ramzan being in June when I was about 12 years old, and it was hard then. I have since become much older, and thus, fasting during the summer has become much more difficult for me. Last year, when only a part of Ramzan was in August, I had a tough time. This year, all of August is Ramzan, and therefore — although I hate to say it — I am scared.

Of course, if fasting poses bodily harm to a person, he or she should not fast. It shames me to admit that I am so scared to fast, because the month of Ramzan is chock full of divine blessings and rewards. The sins of the fasting person are completely erased, and Prophetic tradition holds that there are tremendous benefits for those who fast. In addition, the act of forgoing food and drink during the daylight hours allows one to reflect upon the lives of the poor and hungry, who — out of sheer poverty — may quite often have to forgo food and drink. My hunger and thirst should motivate me to help relieve their suffering through charitable giving and work.Moreover, there is a tremendous spiritual cleansing that comes with the fast of Ramzan. More than just depriving myself of food and drink, if only for a few (or rather this year, several) hours, I must not engage in bad behaviour. Ideally, I should finish the month a better person than when I started it. Thus, I really should be happy.

But I am not. It is going to be hot. The only saving grace is that the days are getting shorter. Normally, this makes me sad. During Ramzan, however, it brings me no small amount of joy. Yet that is the point of the fast, if one is able to do it. It is a physical and spiritual challenge, and God knows it is difficult. That is why in Muslim tradition He says: “Fasting is for Me, and I give the reward for it.” Struggling a little to fast for the sake of God is the essence of jihad, not violence and murder, as some radical Muslims believe.

* Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based doctor and writer. His latest book is Noble Brother: The Story of the Last Prophet in Poetry

Spirit of Ramzan

Thursday August 04, 2011 (1159 PST)

The holy month of Ramzan has started and generally food is considered the only way to enjoy this month. People should know that lavish iftar menus only add to their health problems. Fried edibles and soda drinks are harmful for health but their consumption doubles in the holy month. It is also against the spirit of the fasting, which gives us a lesson of patience, tolerance and simplicity. People come to the mosques to offer taraveeh after stuffing themselves at iftar and it is frequently observed that most of them keep burping and breaking wind throughout the taraveeh prayers.

This causes immense inconvenience to the people around. Islam teaches us through many lessons how to behave decently in a society. Although we recite Quran and offer prayers more regularly, we do not like to bring change in our behaviours. Any indication towards that is taken as bad criticism. People who keep their iftar menu simple for money-saving purposes or trying to be health conscious become a laughingstock for the majority whose sole idea of celebrating Ramzan revolves around food and more food.




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