Ramadan, the blessed month, the holiest of all months, comes to us once every year. It is the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Holy Prophet (SAW), a month in which guidance was bestowed upon mankind. By fasting for 30 days we offer our gratitude to Allah for bestowing upon us this favour of His guidance.
The word fasting literally means “abstinence” – not only from food and drink, but from all wordly desires and from all that is base and profane. It is basically a month of “ethical training,” meant to tame the nafs and to bring it under the control and subordination of the heart or qalb.
Yet, thoughout the month we see a complete lack of control, especially regarding our stomachs. What we do observe is an obsession with food and the height of gluttony taking place especially at iftar. We eat and eat and eat. And still want to eat more. The Suhoor and iftar deals and the elaborate iftar dinners we love to host and attend – rather than depicting us as the truly spiritual beings that this month demands, threaten to rob us of even our basic status as homo sapiens. The gluttony and greed manifested by us in this holy month is reprehensible.
During Ramadan the ladies, it appears, just live to cook food, to create elaborate delicacies and delights for the family, while the gentlemen just live to consume food. A lady is only prepared for Ramadan if her freezer is full of samosas, shami kababs, spring rolls and God knows what else (!), while the men prepare themselves by getting information about all the deals that will be offered at different restaurants.
Then we observe the waste that takes place, especially at Iftar buffets. People breaking their fast are all under the delusion that they can eat right about anything they come across, and thus fill their plates with so much that more than half of it goes to waste. The mere idea of consuming grilled and barbequed meats, kababs and biryani at the time of iftar, after a whole day of fasting, not only revolts a sane mind, but pretty much also goes against medical advice. Breaking fast with a date is not just recommended because it is Sunnah but because it contains such nutrients that are right to energize and revitalise the body while being gentle on the stomach. We ritually eat the khajoor, but afterwards stuff ourselves with such an amount of unnecessary, heavy foods which ultimately take their toll not just on our stomachs, but also on our overall health in the long run. According to a survey done in Pakistan, most heart disease cases are reported in the month of Ramadan!
When we look at the iftar buffets in the UAE, even more disrurbing facts come to light. Under the orders of the Health Ministry, cooked food has to be thrown away after a few hours. Hence, all that excessive food cooked in the restaurant for the iftar buffet is dumped into garbage and simply thrown away! With one million children dying of starvation every year, such waste is inhumane – criminal – something about which we should be even more mindful and considerate than usual during this blessed month. Yet food is wasted more in Ramadan than any other time of the year. Ramadan is supposed to be a month of empathy, in which we realise the suffering of the poor, of the needy, of the less fortunate. Especially in a world where a large number of muslims, particularly in Syria, Gaza and Burma, are suffering from starvation and malnutrition, the apathy and carelessness displayed by us is deplorable! Even in our own Pakistan, the number of people living below poverty line is increasing every year, and in the desert of Thar children are starving to death every day. If we could hold our binge eating for at least this one month, and instead of spending so much on food, choose to spend the spare on the less fortunate, we would certainly be abiding by the spirit of Ramadan.
Here’s what the Quran says about waste and excess:
It is He Who has brought into being gardens, the cultivated and the wild, and date-palms, and fields with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and variegated. Eat of their fruit in season, but give (the poor) their due on harvest day. And do not waste, for God does not love the wasteful. [Surah Al Anaam: 141]
Ramadan is the very month in which muslims are required to give the obligatory zakat to the poor, and hence the spirit of this month is, clearly, providing for others, rather than stuffing our own stomachs like there’s no tomorrow.
And in Surah Al Aaraf:
Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer and eat and drink. But do not be excessive – verily God does not love the wasteful. [Quran 7:31]
In a world where approximately 80% of homo sapiens live close to or below the poverty line, and one million children starve to death every year, such gluttony and waste committed by the followers of Islam, the very religion which focuses most on charity and spending on the poor, and within the very month of charity and zakat is sad and distressing.
Iqbal says in his famous Saqi nama:
یہ عالم، یہ بت خانهء چشم وگوش
جهاں زندگی ہے فقط خورد و نوش
خودی کی یہ ہے منزل اولیں
مسافر یہ تیرا نشیمن نہیں
This idol house of eye and ear,
In which to live is but to eat and drink
Is nothing but the self’s initial stage,
o traveler, this is not your destination!