The Islamic Garden
The Haves and the Have Nots in Ramadan
This article is based on an interview with Umm Muhammad, Sydney, Australia
Part of the hikma (wisdom) behind fasting the month of Ramadan is that every Muslim on earth is put onto the same level by knowing what hunger feels like and being restricted in drinking and eating. It is meant to produce greater appreciation for the blessings of Almighty Allah.
Many Western countries are inhabited by Muslims and they often enjoy greater material well-being. At the same time, in predominately Muslim countries where the divide between rich and poor is more pronounced, the poor there feel the division between rich and poor even more so in Ramadan. This is so even though we should be on the same level of hunger and thirst. Why has this happened?
Sometimes, well-off people have the impression that empathising with the poor comes automatically but compassion is a feeling that emerges from a heart that is close to Almighty Allah and it takes great effort to attain this state. How many of us deny ourselves during the day but after Maghrib we eat more than usual, and moreover, we seek special kinds of food that are in such abundance at this time of year. There is so much waste and this is disastrous for our Iman (faith) and for the poor people whom we are supposed to reach out to. This waste comes from those who ‘have’. There is no Taqwa (consciousness of Allah) in this.
What is really going on?
In many circles, the hours between Maghrib and Fajr are times of continual eating and socializing so that in some countries people will sleep most of the day to avoid the pangs of hunger. Will such people purify their hearts and become more conscious of the needs of the poor and needy? Some people even put on weight in Ramadan. In doing so, we are losing out on one of the wisdoms behind Ramadan in the first place.
The devil made me do it?
We often think of Ramadan as a magical time and we hear in the Khutbahs (sermons) that satan is locked up. We should reflect on the behaviour of many Muslims in Ramadan and the overeating and overindulging that goes on and how Ramadan often becomes an excuse for increased social interaction. We should also notice that Ramadan is too often based around food and competition of women to outdo each other on the size of the banquet and the variety of foods.
Knowing that satan is restricted in Ramadan we must be aware that the wrong actions that are done in Ramadan are not because of satan but because of our own Nafs (desires).
We must strive for the blessings of Ramadan. We have to work to attain greater compassion, awareness and Taqwa. We have the potential to gain these things in Ramadan but they do not come automatically; they have to be sought and understood.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned us (what means) that if we lose our temper and behave badly in Ramadan all we will get is hunger and thirst. So think beyond that and imagine the results of Muslims who sleep all day in Ramadan and eat all night!
Some Muslims sleep through Thuhr and join Thuhr and Asr together and they only get up to prepare the feast. So where is this ‘blessed time’ in such a case? Does Ramadan bring a magic access to Jannah (paradise) and all we have to do is stop eating in the day? Almighty Allah promises us rewards and shows us how to get them but we have to work for it.