Celebrating Ramadan

I have invented this thing that I call “Roza-rolling” in the spirit of ‘rick-rolling’. It involves a Google image search on queries like “chicken roast” or “bbq meat”, wrapping a tinyurl around it, and throwing it towards my fellow Pakistani ‘Rozadaars’ on Twitter – during fasting hours. Thankfully, they don’t mind (I hope) due to their great sense of humor/pity towards me.

Now here’s a thought experiment for my Pakistani Muslim brothers (just to make it clear, I consider myself one too):

Imagine yourself, tomorrow noon (middle of Ramadan), at lunch time, sitting besides a fountain near a very busy road in Pakistan (say, Main Boulevard, Lahore) with your favorite pizza and cola bottle combo, eating and joking with another friend as people pass by. What are your feelings? Are you

a) guilty, because you are a Muslim and should be fasting

b) happy, that you live in a country that respects your freedom

c) uneasy, you can get beaten up by a mob, there might be a mosque nearby

d) afraid, you can get arrested for this

e) none of the above, you will not do any such thing as you will be fasting like a good Muslim

So your answer is e? But what if you are a non-muslim by birth? (you can answer in the comments if you want.)

Today, I met a Christian classmate from school (and school ended 20 years ago, so he is a very old friend) who has recently come back to Pakistan from the UK. He asked me that if Allah says that a roza (fast) is for Him alone and He will reward it Himself, then why is it that he can’t eat, drink (water) or smoke in public? Why can’t he go out and buy lunch from a nearby place?

I’m an idiot when it comes to religion, the Pakistani politics and many things in between them, and topics like separation of state from religion make me queasy, so I had to change the topic. He left a few hours ago, but left me wondering about what used to happen in the times of the last prophet when Muslims ruled the land but non-muslims co-existed with them. Did the Muslims let the non-muslims eat/drink as usual, or did the non-muslims change their ways out of respect/fear? Do you know of the Sunnah/history in this regard?

Ten years ago, a relative living in Saudi Arabia told me that most of the government offices switch their office timings to night shifts, probably so that the daily productivity is not affected. I used to wonder if that is how God intended fasting to be. My idea of fasting was to put up a constraint on a single variable (our intake of food/drinks etc.) and keeping the rest of my life constant, but this Saudi adjustment sounded a lot like my physics lab data manipulation practices of keeping only the ‘good’ string lengths and dropping the rest so that the value of ‘g’ turns out to be ‘9.8’ and not ‘10.5’.

Today, I stumbled upon this page reporting how Ramadan was welcomed in different countries around the world this year. A few excerpts:

  • Pakistan’s government marked Ramadan by halting a major military campaign against Taliban rebels on its border with Afghanistan, launched after intense pressure from Western nations.
  • Ramadan started on Sunday in Libya, according to a decision by the authorities based on “astronomical calculations” rather than an actual sighting of the new moon.The calculations mean that the start of Ramadan does not clash with festivities normally reserved for the anniversary of the Libyan revolution on September 1, 1969.
  • Iranians, still waiting for the new moon to be spotted, are likely to start Ramadan on Tuesday, with office hours cut down from eight to five. Iranian police have issued a stern warning to crack down on people violating a ban on eating and drinking in public as well as eateries offering food before iftar except for designated places on the roads for travellers.
  • For many Muslims, Ramadan also means spending time with friends and family watching lavish television productions filmed especially for the festive season.However, the Egyptian Gazette quoted one man as being “shocked that state-run and privately owned studios wasted 500 million Egyptian pounds (93 million dollars) on producing TV soap operas to be show in Ramadan.”
  • Turkish Muslims meanwhile resolved a debate about whether they could resort to appetite suppressing diet patches to get through the daily fast after theologists reassured them they have nothing to worry about. The patches, cannot be considered as corrupting the fast because their effect amounts to “showering or applying a pomade on the skin” rather than eating, theology professor Kerim Yavuz said.

And here is how the Arabs do it. Google search results from a few other websites looked interesting as well, but ironically, most of them were blocked/restricted either from the Pakistani PTA end or the server end, and I didn’t bother going through a proxy. I fail to see how we can fight “evil” when we don’t know “evil”, but that is the topic of another post by somebody else.

If I had the power to change things, I would have asked all restaurants and food shops to continue business as usual during Ramadan – whoever wants to eat should be allowed to eat, it is his roza, for his God! Who am I to stop him from eating? Actually, I would have gone one step further and subsidized all food items during fasting times. If I am a Muslim and see someone eating while I am fasting, shouldn’t it make me a bit more stronger (and perhaps earn me some extra bonus thawab in the process)? I should not have to grab a person by the collar and tell him to stop eating and start ‘respecting’ my roza. How is this any different from the Taliban wanting everyone to grow a beard, or Bush wanting to convert all the islamic countries to democracy?

But since I do not have such power, I guess I’ll just go watch a movie, or three, before going to sleep until iftar. You ought to do the same. Have a safe and easy Ramadan.

One thought on “Celebrating Ramadan”

  1. Great article. I’m really glad to “meet” you via this whole quirky episode. Love your Twitter feed. You’re very smart and kind and funny. And you sound just like any of a number of my friends here half a world away in NYC (only I’m guessing you get much better roti than we do, damn you….).


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