This article appeared in the New Straits Times on 3 August 2011 and written by my uncle Tn Hj Nor Shahid Mohd Nor.
WITH the arrival of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Muslims all over the world fast from dawn to dusk. This means they cannot eat or drink anything until sunset. It is a month of blessing, marked by prayers, reading the Holy Quran, and performing zakat (charity). It focuses on self discipline and devotion to Allah.
Families get up early for sahur, a meal eaten before sunrise and their next meal is when the sun sets.
The fast is broken with a light meal known as berbuka puasa. Traditionally it usually begins with dates, fresh fruits, water, milk, and sweet hot or cold drinks, that provide a quick energy boost. Heavier meals follow after the maghrib or isyak prayers.
Fasting serves many purposes. While they are hungry and thirsty, Muslims are reminded not only of the suffering of the starving poor, the orphans, the sick and older folk, especially their parents, but also to come forward to help in whatever way they can by donating food, provisions, clothes or money as sedekah.
The hands that give are better than the hands that receive (sunnah).
It is an opportunity to practise self discipline, to cleanse the body and mind, to ask for forgiveness, and to forgive and forget. And in this sacred month, fasting also helps Muslims to feel at peace. This comes from spiritual devotion, as well as brotherhood with fellow believers and a sense of solidarity with fellow non-Muslims.
However, I feel sad to say that some Muslims have strayed away from following the sunnah.
Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with fresh dates and water. After eating, he performed the maghrib prayers. He ate a light meal only after isyak prayers. It is important not to eat to the full when breaking fast.
“Eat when you are hungry and stop before you are full.” — Sunnah.
Everywhere you look today, people are trying to sell the idea of Ramadan.
Non-Muslims, too, enjoy Ramadan as well, motivated by the various food that become available, in the streets, shops, hawker stalls, food courts, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and Ramadan bazaars.
Added to these, mosques also prepare food for breaking fast and bubur lambuk to take away.
No one will be hungry if he goes to the mosque every night to break fast.
The key point is that Muslim families are now swayed by impulse to cook and buy all sorts of food for berbuka puasa. It is the hunger pangs that drive them to buy everything they crave for during the day, especially at the Ramadan bazaar.
If one were to visit a Malay house during berbuka puasa, one will see the dining table laden with food and drinks from one end to the other. Every member of the family brings food in plastic bags from outside.
When the time comes for breaking fast, they can hardly finish what they have bought, let alone eat the food prepared at home. So the leftovers will end up in the garbage bins.
Most Muslim households’ expenditure doubles during the fasting month, and I can bet that 30 to 40 per cent of the cooked food and food bought goes down the drain.
What a shame, when Islam teaches us not to waste, but to be thrifty and moderate in whatever we do.
From the perspective of the Quran, overeating is discouraged and wasting of food and unnecessary extravagance are condemned.
Since the rakyat are now complaining about the rising cost of foodstuff, I would like to urge all Muslims to abide by the sunnah and observe the significance of fasting.