It’s that time of the year again, Ramadhan, when Muslims abstain from food, drink and anything that feeds our nafsu (lust/wants).
A bit of background on Ramadhan, for Muslims, it is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. Every year, almost 1.8 billion Muslims partake in this fast. By coalescing and participating in this event, Muslims feel that it strengthens their connection with God because during Ramadhan, the abstinence from food and water enables us to feel the hardships of those who are less fortunate, causing us to seek repentance and forgiveness. It gives Muslims the opportunity to focus on bettering themselves, improving their iman, and reflecting on their past mistakes in order to garner clarity. Most Muslims seize the chance to go for additional prayers as well as to read more of the Quran and perform zakat.
Contrary to popular belief, Islam is not the only religion that fasts. Jews, Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus and Mormons also have a specific duration and reason for fasting. It triggers an introspection within its practitioners hence improving their spirituality and connection with God. In a way, fasting unites all of us.
Malaysia is known as the melting pot for religions and in order for these diverse cultures to live in harmony, respect must be present and prevalent in its citizens. Since culture is a part of the equation, it is only natural that it results in the birth of cultural norms and customary manners. There can be no respect if we are not educated on each other’s religions. That is why the culture of learning and understanding needs to be cultivated in every Malaysian.
During Ramadhan, it is considered discourteous to eat in-front those who are fasting, regardless of your religion. When faced with the opportunity to eat in public, one should opt for the choice of eating in a more secluded area, perhaps at home or in a closed-space eatery. This is in an act that shows your solidarity with the Muslims who are fasting. By portraying genuine kindness and consideration, that feeling of harmony I was talking about earlier is all the easier to achieve. However, if you must eat in public, you should not be met with scorn either.
There is no smoke without fire. Whilst it is unpleasant for non-muslims who are fully-aware that it is Ramadhan to purposely eat in-front of Muslims, Muslims should not snap at them for doing so either. There is always a kinder approach to every situation. We just need to take a deep breath, reevaluate our words and then respond. Despite this, I see Malay-Muslims throw tantrums in public during Ramadhan because of a simple matter that could have been resolved in minutes. When you attack someone, it is quixotic to expect a peaceful correspondence. Fighting fire with fire is never a good idea because in the end, someone will get burned.
If you are still unsure of what I mean by this, you’re lucky you haven’t witnessed this discrimination and isolation in person. I, and a handful of my friends, have seen and been subjected to the temperament of both sides of this unnecessary war.
Let me preface by saying that I am a Malay-Muslim and in no way am I disrespecting the religion and all of its purity, I am simply shedding light on an issue that is prevalent within my social circle, and maybe in yours as well.
Think about it, how many of you have fallen victim to the cold shoulder, piercing stares and sharp tongue of those who were fasting?
A friend of mine, who is a non-muslim, was berated at a restaurant while she ordered her food. The cashiers behind the counter talked smack about her because they assumed she was Muslim. Recently, an elderly man who was not not physically fit to fast was caught by the police while he was drinking tea at a secluded eatery. Why? Why must you react in such a hateful manner during a month where we are supposed to find serenity and peace within ourselves? Why must you always assume the worst in people? Here’s a cliche saying for you:
“To assume is to make an ass out of u and me.”
Try talking to them first before spewing judgment next time.
The aforementioned example is a form of verbal abuse and during Ramadhan, no less. This month should be utilised by Muslims to not only practice self-control when it comes to food but also when it comes to talking smack (membawang) which happens to be a hobby of us Malaysians. I think we tend to forget that slander (fitnah) is a sin heavier than murder. However, there are instances where things have been taken too far, to the point where it violates personal space and boundaries.
In schools that uphold piousness to an alarming fault, ustazs and ustazahs will roam the grounds in search for adolescents who are not fasting. Most of the time, they will find young girls, who are on their menstrual cycles, sneaking a bite of a sandwich or a few sips of water. Understandably, this arouses suspicion but it is absolutely perverse to demand these girls prove their inability to fast by asking to see their bloody sanitary pads. Some ustazahs even pat to feel if there is a presence of a pad in the girls underwear. It is a disgusting practice that I find completely unnecessary and disjointed with the teachings of Islam.
In a Muslim majority country where the population of said religion is 60%, it would be ignorant to be oblivious of the sensitivities that come with religious practices, in this case Ramadhan. After all, it has been taught in schools through Pendidikan Moral as well as through engagement and conversation with Muslim schoolmates. Therefore, there really is not a valid excuse for not knowing the customs other than pure ignorance. That said, non-muslims are not entirely to blame for insensitivity because Muslims are at fault too.
Do Malay-Muslims know that other religions fast as well? As briefly mentioned above, Islam is not the only religion that fasts. A few similar religions include Jews that fast for two days during Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur and Christians that fast during Lent which falls on 6 March 2019 to 18 April 2019. It’s not just about us. If we demand respect on our holy month, then we should reciprocate that same kindness to other religions during their fasts.
A takeaway from this article and the point that I am slowly circling back to is that assuming the worst in people as well snapping at strangers rebels against the idea of peace that Islam teaches. It is completely okay to advise someone because you want them to better themselves but it is absolutely erroneous to scold people because you get to polish the saddle on your high-horse.
Ramadhan is meant to cleanse and unite people of all religions into a state of peacefulness and reverent appreciation. Let’s not use Ramadhan as a vehicle to disguise your hot-headed and dogmatic tendencies. Take a step back, breathe, and be kind.
Have a great Ramadhan 2019 from us at JUICE!
Have you ever wondered how we would educate the aliens if they were ever to invade Earth? Well, JUICE’s CLTR series on Youtube is a crash course on all things cultural in the format of an extraterrestrial Nintendo video game… Sounds interesting? To watch JUICE’s CLTR video on Puasa, click here
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